David V. Pomeranz

There is an expression used in economics: Never waste a crisis. It’s a concept that has a particular meaning for nursing home operators as a result of COVID-19.

From bolstering communications to supporting staff to stepping in to help residents in the absence of visitors, many providers around the country have used the pandemic not to merely maintain operations, but to improve them. 

To keep families informed of the rapidly changing situation, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health started holding one-hour webinars every week with families, says David Pomeranz, chief operating officer of the seniors care and housing operator in Riverdale, NY. 

About 100 families now dial in every week to the presentation, which features Pomeranz, along with the community’s medical director, vice president of nursing, director of social work and director of activities. As part of the webinar, loved ones can ask questions.

“It’s really created a comfort to families that they have a live stream with the facility,” he says. “It’s like putting on a familiar TV show … We didn’t expect that. In a general sense, it’s been a chance to express their gratitude and appreciation for the work we are doing under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Communicating effectively with staff also has been key. 

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, our response efforts included the widespread and consistent use of Zoom meetings for education, communication and leadership support,” says Cheri Kauset, vice president of customer experience and communications for Tampa, FL-based Mission Health. “We even implemented quick and easy ‘Leadership in a Minute or Less’ tutorials at the beginning of our weekly calls to help guide our community leadership through some of the unique challenges they’re facing.”

One of the most important messages many facilities had to express to staff was if they are sick, they must stay home. “I think people’s nature is they want to help and push through it and be here serving our residents,” says Sondra Norder, president and CEO of St. Paul Elder Services, in Kaukauna, WI.  “We have had to hammer it home that if you have one [COVID-19] symptom, we don’t want you there.”