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Drive-by parades, hand sanitizer stations, seniors wearing masks in their own homes—to say that Covid-19 has disrupted the senior living world, might be the understatement of 2020. After all, the very reason why many seniors join communities is for just that, “community.” With COVID-19 turning everything upside down, it has been up to us to figure out how we will keep our residents safe, while keeping them mentally, physically and socially engaged. 


Prior to COVID-19, our communities were bustling with seniors engaged in all types of activities. If you have never seen a 100-year-old lead chair exercise, you have not lived! Enjoying meals with friends in the dining room was the highlight of everyone’s day. I mean, who could resist a chef-made dessert with every single meal? And of course, we could not wait to pile on the bus to see the local high school’s one act play--Sherri’s granddaughter has the lead this year!


Yes, that’s how Holiday communities around the country looked, until mid-March when the shutdown occurred. 


It was time to pivot. 

 


 

With nearly 50 years of senior living operational expertise, Holiday Retirement helped lead the charge when it came to enhanced safety protocols in response to COVID-19. Holiday serves 30,000 residents in 43 states, and although the virus presented a challenge, our prevention measures and commitment to our residents’ well-being led to new and creative ways to keep residents engaged, informed and connected. 

So, how did Holiday do that? For starters, the executive leadership team organized a COVID-19 response team from day one. This ensured that we had associates focused on combating COVID-19. This team was able to procure essential personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, face shields and gowns and distribute to communities, so that our residents and our associates were properly equipped. 

Regional Director of Operations, Lydia Robertson, says, “I feel beyond blessed to work for a company that was so quick in its response to the virus. To know that our associates and our residents are protected is everything.” 

In addition to outfitting associates with proper personal protective equipment, each resident was also provided a personal mask by Holiday. Also, staff members stepped up cleaning efforts. In addition to cleaning residents’ apartments, the company is devoting more than 18 hours per day to cleaning and sanitizing everything from doorknobs to elevator buttons. We have also been delivering three meals and two snacks daily to every resident to ensure that they are receiving proper nutrition. Enhanced protocols like these have led to a lower infection rate in Holiday communities as compared to the national average for seniors. 

 

 

 

 

While safety is obviously essential, keeping older adults mentally and socially active is extremely important. With the safety precautions in place, we had to limit the visitors and family members that could come into our communities. And although that is understandable, it can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression--none of which we want in our communities. 
So, what have we done to combat this? For starters, we never stopped doing activities, we just had to modify the way we did them. Our resident experience coordinators have had to be extremely creative. Have you ever done socially distanced bingo? Have you ever led an exercise class along a hallway with everyone six feet apart? And, have you ever held a socially distanced outside concert? Well, we have! 

Resident Experience Coordinator, Deedee Knox puts it like this, “COVID-19 certainly has affected all of our residents. Depression is a real enemy. So, my job as a REC is super important. I try to provide activities that will entice them to open their doors, bring them out on their balconies/patios, stretch their minds with various daily puzzles, re-introduce small group activities, and share a meal with other residents, all while socially distancing. One important thing, too, is spending time to talk with the residents individually, even if it's just asking how they are or taking the time to listen.”

Listening to our residents and their families is at the center of everything we do at Holiday. As we have managed the effects of this virus, technology has also played a huge role in connecting our residents and their families. When your son or daughter cannot physically come into the community, that can be extremely hard. Holiday has set up spaces in communities where residents can see their loved one through windows and communicate with them via cell phone. It is not the same as having them sit on their couch and converse, but it is a start! 

 

We have also developed a weekly learning series to connect residents to family and loved ones using computers. And we have a great weekly newsletter that highlights events and happenings at all our communities across the nation. In addition, our residents are using things like Facetime, Facebook messenger and Google Duo to connect to their families virtually.


As states and cities begin to open back up, Holiday has taken a cautious, multi-phased approach to the re-opening of communities. Under public health and state guidelines, our communities will implement initial changes, then evaluate the impact of those changes against gating criteria before considering a move to the next phase. As we move from phase to phase, we expect to maintain stringent visitor screening and limitations, and our residents and associates will wear masks and other protection in common areas.  


While we would like to go back to the way everything was prior to COVID-19, the reality is, this is our new normal. As we navigate these unchartered waters, some communities are now able to allow a limited number of family members to see their loved ones by appointment. In many cases, we are also welcoming outside visitors to tour the property once again in person. They must supply their own personal protective equipment and agree to temperature checks and electronic screening, just like all our associates. 


Implementation of all changes is based on whether there are any active cases of COVID-19 in the community or whether someone (an associate or resident) is being tested for the virus. When those things happen, we already know what to do and we once again pivot to protect our residents and staff. 


With so much change on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, it can be daunting. But as Holiday resident, Carol Botefuhr says, “It’s important for everyone to just keep a good sense of humor during these times.” 


After all, humor is good for the soul—in and out of a pandemic!

 


New Normals

As states and cities begin to open back up, Holiday has taken a cautious, multi-phased approach to the re-opening of communities. Under public health and state guidelines, our communities will implement initial changes, then evaluate the impact of those changes against gating criteria before considering a move to the next phase. As we move from phase to phase, we expect to maintain stringent visitor screening and limitations, and our residents and associates will wear masks and other protection in common areas.  

 

While we would like to go back to the way everything was prior to COVID-19, the reality is, this is our new normal. As we navigate these unchartered waters, some communities are now able to allow a limited number of family members to see their loved ones by appointment. In many cases, we are also welcoming outside visitors to tour the property once again in person. They must supply their own personal protective equipment and agree to temperature checks and electronic screening, just like all our associates. 

 

Implementation of all changes is based on whether there are any active cases of COVID-19 in the community or whether someone (an associate or resident) is being tested for the virus. When those things happen, we already know what to do and we once again pivot to protect our residents and staff. 

 

With so much change on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, it can be daunting. But as Holiday resident, Carol Botefuhr says, “It’s important for everyone to just keep a good sense of humor during these times.” 

 

After all, humor is good for the soul—in and out of a pandemic!

 


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