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FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S DESK


Sharing Information is the Key


To Making Safety Plans Work By Stephen L. Miller, CDAL


T


his year, COVID-19 has brought safety to the forefront in commu- nities. Since the onset, we’ve had


five residents and eight staff members test positive for the virus. Compared to what was happening around our area, we did relatively well. I think the two things that have helped us


navigate throughout this process are trans- parency and consistency. We've been very transparent with the staff, with the residents, and with other stakeholders about the prob- ability of COVID spreading in a setting like ours. As soon as someone tested positive, we communicated that to the staff, the family members, and the residents. Part of transparency is using different


forms of communication to get the infor- mation out quickly. We have a group text app that I use to send messages out, and we also send emails. Within that same vein of transparency,


we communicate not just when we have a positive case. I also send weekly updates sharing that there have been no positives. The longer you go without communicating with people, the more they begin to fill in the blanks themselves—and they begin to think the worst. Once I didn’t send out the communica-


tion as quickly as people were expecting. There was a skilled nursing facility in our area that had a large outbreak; it was on the news. My phone was blowing up all night long with people concerned that it was our community. That was greater motivation to me to be


sure I own the communication, that we’re sending it out in a timely manner, and that it’s accurate. This is a lot to get people to understand in a short amount of time.


32 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE MARCH/APRIL 2021


Personalize communication Pegasus has done a good job providing the communities with general guidelines on how to communicate with the families. In our community, you can’t send out something that sounds scripted. We make our com- munications as personal as possible—like a conversation, the way we communicate in person, or the way we’re talking now. It’s also important to communicate what


happens when we do have positive tests. Some families were fearful that if their loved one tested positive, they’d no longer be able to stay here—and that’s certainly not the case. We’re trained and equipped on how to take care of residents who test positive. We have rooms for isolation, appropriate per- sonal protection equipment and protocols in place, so we can continue to give them the great care they’re accustomed to.


Modeling safety Hourly associates and the direct care staff emulate what they see community leader- ship team doing. We have to know the set protocols and constantly follow these. We need to make sure they have the infor- mation not only to do their jobs success- fully—they have families they go home to and lives outside of this community. So the communication we craft is not only so they can take care of the residents—which is cer- tainly important—but so they can in turn be able to safely interact with their families, and hopefully not introduce the virus into their households. The same practices apply. We send out


weekly staff communications, and as soon as a resident or associate test positive, all are notified. We use appropriate signage in the community to identify those who are posi- tive or could be so associates will know the


environment they’re getting ready to en- ter and can wear the right type of PPE. Another


piece


that’s important to keeping the asso- ciates safe is giving them an opportunity to tell you when they identify areas that need improvement, if they see gaps in the protocol. It’s easy for community leadership to say to implement these things, but we’re not on the floor day in and day out—and we may not notice those gaps.


Stephen L. Miller, CDAL Executive director Dunwoody Place Personal Care Home Pegasus Senior Living


Lines are open We’ve done our best to make sure residents can communicate with their loved ones via Zoom. We’ve had our second dose of vaccine. We’re now allowing safe distance visits—outdoors, with the appropriate PPE—and the response to that has been huge. Each community leader has a desig- nated wing for which we’re responsible for, ensuring the resident is able to communi- cate with loved ones on whatever media is available to the resident. You have to keep your eyes open for de-


pression, because there’s been an uptick of that in the industry. We’ve been fortunate that we didn’t see that. I think it helped that we do our best to make sure they have those lines of communication open with family members and loved ones. This article is excerpted from a longer interview. If you are an executive director with a CDAL certifi- cation and would like to write a piece or participate in an interview, please email editor@argentum.org.


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