4 Ways to Leverage Technology in Your Senior Living Community’s Reopening Plan
Senior living communities around the country are navigating the path toward safe reopening amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Operators are building strategic plans to protect their communities from the virus for the long term, and many are turning to technology systems to help execute those plans.
As long-term isolation can have negative impacts on older adults’ overall wellbeing, reopening plans must manage risk while also providing safe ways for residents to connect with friends and family. Here are four ways senior living technology can support both goals.
1: Use EHRs to Track Community COVID-19 Cases
As community leaders adopt methods of monitoring community disease transmission and recovery, they need full visibility into residents’ health situations. But that’s very difficult to achieve when you have to record and retrieve every COVID-19 test and hospital visit summary on paper.
In assisted living and memory care communities, caregivers can utilize electronic health records (EHRs) to streamline community testing and resident recovery.
EHRs don’t just make it easier for caregivers to store resident health data securely via digital platforms. They also enable caregivers to do their jobs better: by saving time spent finding and filing health data, caregivers can focus on giving sick or recovering residents the care they need. For example, you can reference the EHRs of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 to monitor symptom progression and evaluate underlying risks.
2: Answer Residents’ FAQs with Online Portals & Voice Technology
From event capacity restrictions to COVID-19 screening procedures, there are a lot of new policies to keep track of. But protocol compliance among residents is vital to mitigate community transmission.
A multi-channel approach to communication will ensure that key information is delivered to all residents, no matter their communication preferences. In addition to written and verbal channels, create digital channels for COVID-19 updates.
To help residents stay on top of changing community guidelines, create an online hub with up-to-date information about your community’s reopening phases. This enables residents to easily access important information from the comfort of their rooms instead of having to travel to a common area or ask staff members.
Consider making a COVID-19 landing page for resident FAQs, such as:
- What’s the maximum capacity of my exercise class?
- Am I allowed to dine in the cafeteria again?
- What does my family need to do to come visit me?
- How can I get tested for COVID?
Another great way to deliver this information to residents in their own rooms is through voice technology. Easy-to-use smart speakers can answer these types of questions directly as this technology can integrate community-specific information.
3: Announce Visiting Protocol Updates through a Family Engagement App
One of the most challenging parts of the first few months of the pandemic for residents and their loved ones was that they couldn’t see each other in person. Thankfully, many communities have cautiously resumed structured visits with a comprehensive set of disease prevention guidelines in place.
A number of states have issued visitor reopening guidelines for assisted living and long term care communities. While there are some universal policies like outdoor-only visits, wearing PPE, and maintaining a six-foot distance, some states have a long list of specific criteria for visitor eligibility.
A family-facing platform like Caremerge’s Family Engagement solution is an effective way to communicate these policies to family members. Instead of having individual staff members field questions, this digital channel can house community-specific visitor guidelines and help everyone manage required prevention measures like the following:
- Visitors must be screened and symptom-checked for exposure to and/or symptoms of COVID-19.
- Visitors are limited in number (typically two or fewer) and visits must be scheduled in advance with the community.
- Some states restrict visitors by age (12 or older); others permit children to visit under supervision of parents, given they abide by the other visitor requirements.
A family engagement platform can also facilitate visit scheduling and procedure compliance at scale.
In addition, when the fall comes and outdoor visits may no longer be viable, or in case operators must suspend visits again due to rising virus concerns, staff can use a family engagement platform to send updates to family members and schedule video visits.
4: Supplement Socially Distanced Activities with Virtual Options
Many senior living operators have also reintroduced group activities under social distancing and limited capacity provisions. While this has so far proven to be a sustainable model for preventing in-person transmission, the reality is that some seniors may not feel comfortable risking any sort of exposure. But they still need to connect with friends and do the things they enjoy.
To keep those residents who feel safer in quarantine happy and engaged, activities directors can provide virtual life enrichment offerings. John Knox Village, a senior living community in Florida, has hosted a number of virtual activities for residents during the pandemic, including Zoom happy hours, book clubs, exercise classes, and birthday parties. You can also introduce live stream options for regular in-person programming to maximize attendance.
A digital tool like Caremerge’s Community Engagement platform can support activities directors’ planning for virtual programming and live streams, while residents can check an online community portal for the latest info on new events.
A Strategic Reopening Needs the Right Tools
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a host of never-before-seen challenges in the senior living industry, but operators have more than risen to the occasion.
Senior living leaders have found new ways to keep residents engaged and safe by leveraging technology that streamlines care and connects people virtually. That isn’t just good for current residents – it’s good for the next generation of residents, no matter the state of this public health crisis.
Sign up for a demo to learn more about how Caremerge can support senior living reopening strategies.