By Steve Lewis, Director of Customer Success for LincWare (a Senior Living Foresight partner)
This pandemic has caused many of us to reflect on how we got here and what we’re doing to improve an industry that has been badly battered. I can’t tell you how much time I have spent in reflection. I’ve spent the last decade of working in the profession of caring for seniors. In my case, it was personal.
I will never forget the experience of admitting my mom to a long term care community due to severe dementia. The impact that had on me was tremendous. And since then I have spent my professional and personal time in one area or another of this industry.
When COVID-19 hit, it brought out the best in many senior living communities. But it has also exposed some long-standing issues. These “issues” have always been there, beneath the surface. But COVID-19 is making them harder to ignore.
Here is what I am thinking about:
Issue #1: We Don’t Appreciate Our Seniors as the Most Important Part of Our Society.
And yet, we need these individuals more today than ever! They provide a balance of perceptions about what is going on in today’s society and the wisdom of how to interact with what is going on.
I have talked to residents who lived through World Wars, pandemics like Spanish influenza, and civil rights movements. Now COVID-19 has created a challenge to protecting our aging seniors.
Are we doing enough?
Issue #2: Senior Living Communities and Nursing Homes Lack the Support They Need to Survive.
I spent most of my career in senior living. It has been perceived as the black sheep of the healthcare industry for years. Operators have had to deal with reducing revenues while having to care for an increasing complexity of conditions.
An article written by a CEO I once worked for breaks down the lack of government support of senior care and the overall health care industry during this pandemic. Over the years, we have seen higher needs for memory care in nursing, much like my mom’s needs. But, based on flawed reimbursement guidelines, they may receive less compensation for complex cases, such as those due to cognition issues.
Issue #3: COVID-19 Will Force Automation, Whether We Like It or Not.
One area that will never go back to the way it was is the use of automation. Since COVID-19, we’ve seen the use of virtual meetings and virtual tours skyrocket. And, given the revenue hit we’ve taken, more communities are using technology to automate certain rote tasks to free up valuable staff time. As an example, I now work for a company that has developed customized paperwork automation and electronic signing solution to help seniors or family members complete and sign move-in paperwork remotely. Like other technology companies, we’re doing what we can to take some of the heat off staff and families by making processes faster and more secure.
Focusing on What’s Important
Right now, most organizations are focused on making sure they can make their budgets and increase the bottom line, especially during this pandemic. And it’s understandable. However we, as a profession, need to determine if we can focus more on the front end, providing quality of care for our seniors, and less on if we will make money on the back end. Maybe we should use some of these “truths” to set some new priorities.