Protocols put in place during the pandemic have helped Juniper Communities keep infections down and residents’ spirits up, says founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann, Ph.D. But a “new normal” is a work in progress, she added.

In a Friday earnings call with senior housing investment firm LTC Properties, Katzmann said a new model of senior living may emerge that focuses on safety, dedicated staff, neighborhood cohorting of residents and employees, and increased social engagement.

“Leadership, vision and the ability to use data to set a proactive course are extremely important,” she said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the company adopted the successful strategies of Germany and South Korea in its crisis management approach, which included testing, contact tracing and isolation; stepped up infection control practices; employee training; and new systems to ensure enhanced accountability and documentation of results.

The operator tested residents and staff universally beginning in late March through a private lab. It began testing in COVID-19 hotspots first, which included two long-term care properties. Those tests, Katzmann said, had a 50% positivity rate. Among the individuals who tested positive, 72% of residents and 94% of associates were asymptomatic.

“That was hugely important, because it told us this disease was transmitted without someone having symptoms, and despite what we were being told by the CDC,” she said.  Juniper used that information to create a battle plan that today shows the majority of its communities testing 100% negative for the virus, she added. 

That battle plan included some communities sheltering in place — both staff and residents — and creating small cohorts, or neighborhoods. Juniper also tackled staffing shortfalls by training all available staff to be universal workers, extending pay when employees were ill, providing appreciation pay, offering incentives for employees to shelter in place, and redeploying sales staff as recruiters.

Juniper’s current goal is to restore profitability while keeping residents and associates “healthy, safe and engaged,” Katzmann said. Its plan includes:

  • Prevention — Rapid, accurate, affordable and regular testing.
  • People — Cohorting employees and appreciation pay.
  • Programming — Reopening dining, restoring activities, establishing safe visitation.
  • Place — Offering visible signs of a return to normalcy through successful invention prevention and control strategies.
  • Packaging — Crafting and delivering the right message.

This is an excerpt from an article on McKnight’s Senior Living.