This screenshot is from a LeadingAge document that came across my desk today that ends with an urgent plea for action on 5 fronts (you can access the entire document HERE):
- Immediate access to ample and appropriate PPE for all providers who serve older Americans.
- On-demand and fully funded access to accurate and rapid-results testing for care providers.
- Funding and support for aging services providers across the continuum of care—in nursing homes, assisted living, affordable housing, hospice, or wherever they call home, some of which must be accomplished through an enhanced FMAP for the Medicaid program.
- An extension of current telehealth flexibilities and reimbursement for home health agencies for telehealth services.
- Recognition for the heroic frontline workers who are risking their own lives serving older people during this crisis.
Beyond the Crisis
I went out to lunch today with my wife and driving to the restaurant was an interesting mix of normal and extraordinary. The ordinary was the number of people out and about doing what they have always done, albeit with masks and some form of social distancing.
What was extraordinary in the saddest kind of way was businesses that are still closed: gyms, movie theaters. And what hit me particularly hard was driving past the Tae Kwon Do studio where my grandson used to go, and I got to know the owners. They bootstrapped this business starting with a tiny little storefront and moving 3 times because they outgrew their old space. Now they have nothing.
I am pleased and proud of what LeadingAge, AHCA/NCAL, Argentum, and ASHA have done to keep the pressure on the federal and State governments to protect older people. And I believe, even assume, that at the end of the day, the government will come through with enough help to get senior living organizations back to status quo or close to it.
Pivot or Die
Most senior living operators continue to function in survival mode. And I am not walking in their shoes, very likely your shoes. I am not faced with worrying about cash flow, about keeping residents and team members safe, about how to cope with an ever-changing regulatory process.
The question is this, what if this is more or less the new normal? What if we are forever going to be faced with heightened isolation protocols, with social distancing, with . . .. The list of those what-ifs is long. It seems likely that this is a 9/11 moment where the world will be forever altered.
I believe we need to think in terms of pivoting and asking this one huge question:
How Can We Pivot in This New Reality to Thrive?
I wish I had some easy answers, a formula that every senior living operator could use to become more successful, more profitable, more rainbows and unicorns. But I don’t. However, I do see some areas that are really ripe to create a thriving new version of senior living.
- Fulling embracing technology will make things better. There is so much that technology can do that is not being done today.
- Tapping into residents’ superpowers. We have traditionally treated residents like hotel guests, to be indulged and pampered. We have treated them like we could never ask them to be a part of the community in the sense of serving other residents and even team members. Moving to a tribe of people with a common goal of creating an amazing ecosystem will mean less demand on staff, lower costs, longer lengths of stay, and more joy for everyone.
- Tapping into the superpowers of team members. We have seen some of this in the pandemic with leadership discovering hidden talents in their own workforce. We need to uncover every single superpower team members have and turn them loose to make for a more robust community.
- Leadership, particularly regional and corporate, needs to spend more time down in the trenches understanding what it is like to work in their own communities. Understanding the challenges and opportunities.
- We have to create resident pods that will allow significant socialization and yet protect the whole community. This may also mean more universal workers assigned to specific pods.
- We need to be collecting and telling amazing stories about how we are transforming the lives of residents, their families, and our team members. Photos of wheelchair races and dances in the dining room are nice. But I promise you this one thing: NO ONE LOOKS AT THE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS AND SAYS, “I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO GET OLD ENOUGH TO DO THAT!”
- We need research to look at ‘safe at home in isolation’ compared to ‘safe at home in a senior living community’. Not easy to do, but worth it. I am convinced we will surprise ourselves at how good we are.
When you think about pivoting for the good, what comes to your mind?