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"We’ve Navigated New Normals Before and We Will Do So Again"


Varsity's Derek Dunham on what a post-Covid-19 business model may look like and how facilities can get their communities back on track

"We’ve Navigated New Normals Before and We Will Do So Again"

The New York Times recently published “Maggots, Rape and Yet Five Stars: How U.S. Ratings of Nursing Homes Mislead the Public,” about the star system used to rate the quality of patient care in nursing homes.

The aging services industry was put in the spotlight early on in the pandemic. We’re typically a quiet bunch that does a lot of good; now the industry and many of its workers were thrust into the spotlight.

We at Varsity can’t remain silent.

The tireless commitment and tenacity we have seen from our work with clients in the aging services industry must be addressed.

They haven’t been able to work from home like so many of us, and have been caring for our parents and grandparents, with many even living on-site at the height of the pandemic to ensure residents were safe.

This recent article on ratings does not provide the full picture of nursing homes, and, more specifically, senior living and Life Plan Communities, especially as it relates to caregivers there.

A negative story paints a broad stroke across a diverse field. Nursing homes individual living, retirement communities, and skilled nursing facilities differ in distinct ways.

We have learned about ourselves and our organisations over the past 18 months and carved out opportunities for growth and innovation at a time when weakness and risk was the main focal point.

A question asked from a few clients transformed into a weekly, virtual gathering of minds: “How are fellow independent living facilities handling day-to-day business during Covid-19?” Rather than answer each individually, we thought it would be beneficial to host roundtable discussions and open them up to clients and non-clients alike.

Discussions became intimate roundtables with a national footprint.

Roundtables are cathartic, empathic, safe spaces; employees know they are not alone. The challenges are the same for every independent living facility across the country. It’s both a best practice forum and a psychiatrist’s couch.

Each 30-minute roundtable begins with the same question: What word sums up how you’re feeling this week? Emotions can range from “diligent” and “tough” to “cautious” and “less overwhelmed than before.” After 30 minutes, we stop asking questions and let participants ask questions and dictate the conversation.

Aging services workers from across the country have tackled tough topics over the past year, helping others — and themselves — through challenging topics like: Facing the unknown; Acceptance of the new normal; Feel-good marketing messages feel tone-deaf; Getting a handle on virtual tools; Covid-19 fatigue and isolation continue; and Looking ahead to the hope of the vaccine.

Participants from New York, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Florida, among others, share their experiences. They help one another cope with loss, stress and uncertainty. They share successes, setbacks, frustrations, wins and losses.

Over the course of 50+ weeks of virtual conversations, we’ve hosted varying guest speakers with an emphasis on research, sales, digital, and social media.

Collaborations between independent living facilities occurred prior to the pandemic and prior to our roundtable discussions, but sales and marketing was overwhelmed. We didn’t invent the wheel; we modified it.

Now that companies are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, there’s a shift in tone; we’re often asked what a post-Covid-19 business model look like, and how do facilities get their communities back on track?

A post-Covid-19 age will breed new creativity. Expectations of communities will be different, and quite frankly, they should be.

Our roundtables — including our new home care roundtable — will examine this and other topics both related and unrelated to COVID-19 such as; Have you ever had your outgoing calls show up as spam on caller ID; Are you considering mandating vaccines for staff; Have you already done this; Are you experiencing higher 2021 rate increases due to COVID-19; and how are you highlighting your commitment to safety/health protocols?

We’ve navigated new normals before and we will do so again, together, helping fellow communities in the process.

Derek Dunham is VP/client services at Varsity

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Pavone, Tue, 22 Jun 2021 16:35:43 GMT