By Steve Moran
It is easy to get bogged down in the awfulness of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on senior living. And there is no denying it has had lots of really terrible impacts on communities, residents, team members, and others, including people dying before their time.
At the same time we are seeing a number of really remarkable stories about how individuals and organizations are coming together in wonderful, positive ways because of the pandemic.
A few days ago I got a chance to visit with Lacy Jungman, the VP of Communications for Heritage Communities. They are based in Omaha, Nebraska, and have 14 communities in Nebraska, Iowa, and Arizona.
The way Heritage Communities responded to the COVID-19 pandemic threat was to tackle the challenge in a collaborative fashion in the form of “Heritage United.” Heritage United is a common commitment to keeping residents and team members safe with each set of stakeholders playing a role:
- Residents committed to staying inside the community for the safety of other residents, and the staff.
- Family members committed to postponing visits to avoid the potential ripple effect of accidentally bringing COVID-19 into the community.
- Team members committed to providing great care to residents and to limit their behaviors outside of work in order to protect the residents and fellow team members.
I asked if they have had any cases in their communities. She told me they have had a couple of communities where they have had positive tests in both residents and team members but that right now they have no residents or team members who have tested positive.
The big goal of Heritage United was to bring people together, all working on this common goal of doing battle with the virus. This has really played out with team members. They have seen a reduction in turnover and they are finding morale is as high as it has ever been. When family members saw the shirts, they wanted to be a part of the movement and began ordering shirts.
They were popular enough that Heritage Communities set-up a storefront to sell the shirts and raise money for their employee care fund, where they have already raised more than $8,000.
Coolest of All
We know one of the best ways to build morale and loyalty is to have a common enemy that a group of people is fighting against. If the goals are pure and leadership in the trenches, something special begins to happen. Vendors stepped up, including their landscape company and OneDay that bought a bunch of shirts for their teams.
And this then causes a ripple effect where team members go “wow, it is so great others really care about us, about what we do. They value us.”
One of the big lessons they have learned from this experience is how important communication plays a role in the life of the community.
As they went from large group activities to socially distanced activities to no more than 10 people and socially distanced then finally no group activities there was some pushback. They countered that pushback with great communication, explaining what they were doing and why they were doing it. And what could happen if they did not make these changes.
It was this pushback that really inspired Heritage United. It was the platform they used to talk about:
- Why residents needed to stay in the community even though they live in independent living
- The danger they became to other residents and team members
- Why team members needed to be wearing masks at the beginning (it’s the norm now)
They took the grumbling or discontent of just a few people and owned it, rather than ignoring it. They assumed that if people were unhappy it was the organization’s job to better communicate why they were doing what they were doing, but that fundamentally it was their responsibility to get it right and they did.
There is a ton more really good stuff in the interview and you can watch it here: