By Susan Saldibar

These are unprecedented times. And with the holidays approaching, there is a perfect storm brewing and headed our way. Here’s why:

  • Increasing anxiety felt by family members who are separated from loved ones. 
  • Colder weather bringing more people indoors, creating more COVID risks. 
  • Residents remaining in their rooms or apartments, battling feelings of isolation and depression, impacting their emotional and physical health.
  • Hardworking staff overwhelmed with calls from family members expressing fear, concern, and frustration, and wanting access to their loved ones. “Why won’t mom pick up her iPad?” “I can’t reach dad, is he okay?” “Do you have any more COVID cases?”
  • Increasing worries within the community of new COVID cases, dealing with a sluggish pipeline and fewer move-ins.

Doesn’t sound much like the holidays we know and love, does it? But it’s reality. And it should be a wake-up call to take a hard, unbiased look at how well you are connecting your residents and family members. Because, if your families are already asking “Why can’t you?” or “When will we be able to?” you’ll really get hammered when the holidays come. 

What Is the “Gift of Connection”? Why Give It Before the Holidays?

Sarah Hoit, CEO of Connected Living (a Senior Living Foresight partner) has personally experienced the devastation of not being able to be near a loved one during a crisis. That’s why she founded Connected Living, to combat what she knew was an isolated population of seniors, often separated from family. “Our mission is to create meaningful private connection,” she tells me. And the holidays have added an urgency to that mission.

What Connection Should Look Like, Especially with COVID Curtailing Activities?

A big focus should be on meeting the residents and family members where they are, Sarah tells me. “The residents’ rooms or apartments are becoming the epicenter of engagement these days, especially with colder weather and limited indoor group activities,” she explains.

And that goes for family members as well. People are working from home and kids are learning online. “You need to make environments come alive with connections to everyone and everything happening inside and outside the walls.” 

Sarah refers to it as giving the “gift of connection. And, for obvious reasons, she urges communities to make sure they are equipped to give that gift before the holidays hit. 

Here’s what the gift of connection might look like in your community:

  • A TV that comes alive as a communications hub, allowing family members to “pop in” for a chat, and residents to access anything from calendars to menus to Christmas carols.
  • Apps that let family members use their phones or tablets to instantly check in with mom or dad or a staff member.  
  • Apps that let staff members create broadcast messaging to all family members, answering questions from COVID to calendars. 
  • An interactive digital display in a main area when small group activities take place and for staff to view calendars, menus, and other important information. 

And you can even add a voice-activated robot to answer questions and connect residents to loved ones and staff. Sounds almost futuristic, doesn’t it? It’s not, Sarah tells me. It’s not only here, but it’s what family members are assuming you already have in place. Pretty amazing.

Connected Living Won’t Turn Down Any Request. and They’ll Work Within Your Budget.

Connected Living has created a special Connection Accelerator package to get communities 100% connected and engaged ahead of the holidays. Sarah does urge that you act now. And they can get you up and running within a couple weeks, she tells me. 

So, the question you should be asking is how close, or far away, is your community from this level of connectivity and engagement? And, maybe even more importantly, where will that leave your community in 2021? “We are living through the lowest occupancy in recent history,” Sarah says. “The upcoming holidays give us chance to leap forward, out of this horrific moment and give families of residents a window into the lives of their loved ones.”

The only thing Sarah asks is that communities who want to connect do so now. “Investing in the peace of mind to be able to say that everyone is 100% connected is powerful,” Sarah says. “That’s why we won’t turn down any request. We’ll find a way to help you get it done.”

You can find out more about the Connection Accelerator package here.