Tamar Abell

We are in crazy times.

Actually, it’s a step beyond crazy times. The world has hunkered down and is watching this COVID-19 unravel. Nothing is the same. I never expected to receive a call from a close friend on Saturday night at 11 p.m. with the following question: “Are you ready for a wedding?”

Not knowing what the next day would bring, a handful of family and friends gathered at 1:30 in the morning and danced with the glowing bride and groom. No, the bride didn’t get the wedding of her dreams, but we tried to turn lemons into lemonade (anyone who knows me will know that’s my life slogan!)

 As senior care providers, we have even greater angst. We are privileged to care for our elderly, the most vulnerable during this crisis, but we must keep our staff and ourselves healthy in order to do so. This is certainly unprecedented and will change the way we operate our business forever. I’m not sure exactly what this means for the future, but I have some thoughts while sitting in my house with all shops, malls, restaurants and public places closed.    

We are living in a phenomenal age of technology and we need to embrace it even more than ever. We don’t know how long we will be isolated from one another, but luckily, we have technology infrastructure in place.

Here are some thoughts from quarantine:

Social: With the easy availability of Zoom, Facetime and WhatsApp, stimulating activities and visits can continue virtually. My parents, in their 80s with compromised health, have been in quarantine for a week. After three days of nonstop watching the news, we realized that’s not enough. The family has set up grandchildren virtual visits, study groups, “meme” of the day and even yoga sessions.

 At a facility level, there are livestream concerts, religious services and many YouTube exercises that can benefit our residents and staff. Make sure your residents have access to virtually connect with family as best as possible. With the visitor ban in place, we want to make sure families have a way to communicate with their loved ones. In addition, there are many great web-based products for the senior market to promote movement; both physical and mental.

Staffing: We didn’t need the coronavirus to feel a staffing shortage. We treasure our staff and the job they are doing during these very trying times. Therefore, we want to keep them as “protected” as possible. We need our senior leaders healthy in order to make difficult decisions and policy.  This would include as much technology as we can provide for them to work in place. Does your corporate staff have access to records, clinical information, and critical data if they need to be in quarantine or a situation that they can’t travel to facilities? It is said that LTC is 10 years behind in using technology. Those days MUST be over. Luckily, the technological resources in the senior care/post-acute market have exploded over last few years.

Marketing: We know what’s up ahead: incredible regulatory scrutiny and lots of finger wagging by the media and government at the LTC industry. We need to be proactive as an industry. Let’s show the world how we were innovative and provided the best resources for our residents despite the chaos. Blog, post, Twitter to the world about how proactive we are and show them the good stuff that’s happening.

So, what can we do? It’s time to do a risk assessment of your facilities. Form committees in your organization to determine what technology can best benefit your operations. Receive input from all stakeholders; residents, families and all levels of staff — from frontline to corporate. Find out how to best prioritize to make your organization more virtual — and be able to better weather times like this. As an operator, I know the stress we are all feeling and the uncertain financial times ahead, but can we afford to not look to the future?

Finally, let’s embrace the humor. My 4-year granddaughter, who lives on a college campus with her family, has been hearing an awful lot about corona.  Yesterday she looked at my daughter and said, “They always have Corona at college, why is everyone scared?” Hug your kids, love your parents and … and maybe even have a beer.

Tamar Abell is the CEO of TBA Consulting Group.