A Family Member’s Perspective: How Caremerge Enables Real-Time Family Updates in a Crisis
The Transition to Assisted Living
In 2018, Steve G.’s 89-year-old father was living alone in his apartment in Staten Island, New York, when he fell and wasn’t immediately able to get up – or get help. That’s when Steve and his sister insisted that their father either accept more hours of in-home assistance per day or move into assisted living. He chose assisted living, relocating to The Brielle at Seaview, a Staten Island community that let him stay near his friends.
Shortly after he moved in, The Brielle started using Caremerge’s Family Engagement app, which offers caregivers and family members a HIPAA-compliant way to share messages, images, videos, and community-wide updates instantly (see Figure 1).
“As soon as they got the app, we started using it,” said Steve. “The thing I like best: updates. We know what’s going on.”
A Safety Issue in the Community
Knowing what was going on proved especially useful when the community experienced a safety issue not long after Steve’s father moved in.
“People at the community were really good,” Steve said, noting that the app’s announcement feed was updated regularly with the latest information the community had available.”
“The announcement feed really helps because we didn’t have to keep bothering them,” he said. “They just put out the latest news.”
The implication for communities is significant: rather than having the family members of hundreds of residents calling daily to ask for updates, everyone got the latest information in real time, with the click of a button.
This meant staff could focus on caring for residents rather than fielding calls from distressed family members – a win for everyone.
Coronavirus Hits – and Announcements Keep Families Informed
The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the entire world, and seniors are among the highest-risk population. Steve, his sister, and the family members of assisted living residents around the country had immediate questions about how their loved ones would be affected and how their communities would respond.
Steve also had a chance to see exactly how powerful Caremerge’s Family Engagement app is in a crisis.
On March 5, he and his sister received a regular announcement through the app (see Figure 2).
That announcement mirrored many that Americans were seeing at the time: The Brielle was encouraging hand washing, making hand sanitizer available, and asking those with flu-like symptoms and anyone who had traveled to known outbreak zones to avoid visiting.
But just a week later, the situation had changed dramatically. The Brielle updated its policy to allow only essential visitors in the community and sent a second announcement on March 13 to reflect those changes (see Figure 3).
“The March 13th announcement, because it represented such a drastic action, was preceded by a personal phone call,” Steve explained. As the primary point of contact, he got the call and alerted his sister about what was coming.
They both received the new announcement through the app simultaneously, meaning they both had all relevant details about their father’s wellbeing at their fingertips.
“To me,” said Steve, “It’s a very good use of the announcement function.”
In a time of elevated stress, he didn’t have to worry about getting the details or messaging correct to pass along to family. For The Brielle, the Family Engagement app made it possible to share the news with everyone on residents’ family lists.
As news and official recommendations around the crisis continue to evolve, Steve knows that, thanks to the Family Engagement app, he’ll be alerted in real time if and when The Brielle updates its policies and procedures again.
In the meantime, the app enables him to maintain a healthy relationship with his father, even though he can’t visit.
A Stronger Long-Distance Relationship & Greater Peace of Mind
Even in the midst of a crisis, of course, life goes on. And the Family Engagement app’s activity feed helps family members stay in tune with what their loved ones are up to at their communities.
“I use the activity feed constantly,” said Steve, who lives more than an hour from The Brielle, in New Jersey. “My dad’s very active at the community. If I don’t see an activity, I can ask what’s going on. It gives me peace of mind.”
He also mentioned that he likes looking at the community calendar feature.
“I’ll say to him, ‘Hey, later on in the week this is going on,’ but he’s ahead of me. He usually knows it already, but at least I can make suggestions that might interest him.”
Steve noted that having this kind of insight into his father’s life has proven to be a great conversation starter. “We can chat about what he’s doing,” Steve said. “If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t know to ask. It opens up lines of communication.”
According to research, that can have a significant positive impact on his father’s wellness: people who have more conversations and more meaningful conversations tend to be happier.
Steve, too, benefits from the visibility the app gives him into his father’s life.
“The app absolutely saves time and reassures me,” he said. “If I call him and he doesn’t answer, but he’s doing things in the app, I know he’s just ignoring his phone or his hearing aids are off. If I see activity, I don’t panic if I haven’t heard from him. I don’t have to make a phone call or a trip out. The app gives me peace of mind.”
If he does have a question, Steve can use the app’s direct outreach feature.
“There are five people I can communicate with,” he said. “Staff members and the general manager, and they can cc my sister.” Though he uses this feature less often, it comes in handy when he has a direct but non-urgent question.
Better Family Communication Means Better Outcomes for Everyone
In the best of times, communicating with family members can be a challenge for retirement and assisted living community staff. In times of crisis, clear and timely communication becomes infinitely more important, to both family members’ peace of mind and the safety and health of a community’s residents.
With the Caremerge Family Engagement app, community residents, staff, and family members can stay up to date on both day-to-day activities and important announcements – without requiring staff to spend hours on the phone or answering emails.
For information on how the Family Engagement app can help your community provide clear, real-time communication in a crisis, prevent confusion among family members, and offer families greater peace of mind, get in touch to request a demo today!