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Now More Than Ever, Senior Living Staff Needs Management Support

Senior Living Strategy October 1, 2020

The nurses, hospital staff, and physicians working on the front lines to combat the COVID pandemic, have earned well-deserved praise for their courageous actions over the last six months. 

But there are other heroes in the background that we can’t forget: The caregivers who work at senior living communities, 

These men and women play an integral role in the delivery of daily care and services for residents. They sacrifice their own safety to provide ongoing emotional and physical support for those identified as the most vulnerable to the virus.  The persistent and high burnout rates are now amplified by COVID. 

Now, more than ever, senior living staff need management support. 

We’ve compiled some suggestions to help you.

Give Your Staff More Support 

Caregivers and staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty in this great time of need. Many are working extra hours or pitching in to help other departments. They’re sacrificing for the good of the community and the residents. It’s critical that their efforts are acknowledged and supported, otherwise it’s all too easy for them to get frustrated and burnout.

Your caregivers and staff are under significant pressures both at work and at home. They juggle fears of personal safety and job stress on top of the issues they face in their personal lives. 

According to Senior Housing News, 40% of surveyed workers reported being in financial hardship due to COVID; nearly two-thirds said that they need more PPE. Both of those issues impact caregiver morale, which in turn, impacts quality of care. 

To alleviate this mounting pressure, there are three key actions you can take to support your staff proactively:

  1. Recognize their deeds
  2. Provide for their wellbeing
  3. Offer discounts and other incentives 

Recognize Their Deeds 

The relationship between your caregivers and management team can’t simply be a financial transaction. It needs to go deeper. You have to treat them as a whole person in the exact same way you do your residents.  

How? 

By recognizing their hard work. By acknowledging their sacrifice. By ensuring that they feel valued and lauded for their contributions. Research from Reward Gateway found that organizations that invest in strategic recognition can increase employee engagement scores by up to 37%. 

So, what are some creative ways that you can do this? 

  • “Honoring Our Heroes” highlights – Social media is a powerful tool to leverage now more than ever. Use it to shine a spotlight on your team’s heroes, listing and praising their efforts. These posts can then be shared with families and friends, referral sources, and prospective workers. 
  • Public recognition – Let the public know that heroes walk among them. Hang signs, spread advertisements, and share PR stories about the work your caregivers and staff are doing. For example, in Portland, management at a senior living community organized a car parade to demonstrate support for both the residents and the staff.
  • Work with local community leaders and businesses – Reach out to the leaders and businesses in your community to see how they can support your team. Restaurant owners may be willing to provide free meals to workers and service providers may offer discounts. Look for creative ways to partner with them and celebrate your staff. 
  • Help them at home – Chances are, there’s a significant percentage of your caregivers who have to choose between coming to work or staying at home for their kids. Perhaps you could help them with grocery shopping or childcare. For example, one senior living community started an employee assistance program to provide workers with up to $500 each month for childcare services.

On their own, these may seem like little things. But together, they clearly show your staff that you see them and cherish their contributions. 

Provide for their Wellbeing 

If you want to hire and retain high-quality staff, you need to care for their mental and physical health. This starts by building a culture of check-ins. 

Pay attention to employee wellbeing and look for the signs of burnout. That goes beyond a simple “How are you?” It’s about creating spaces in which you encourage dialogue and listen to staff concerns. 

Your staff also needs time to support one another apart from their work duties. Doing so helps build a cohesive team who have a group purpose, which according to Occupational Medicine:

“Evidence shows that cohesion between personnel is highly correlated with mental health, and that the resilience of a team may be more related to the bonds between team members than the coping style of any individual.” 

Provide opportunities for staff to decompress and talk about their experience. This shouldn’t be mandatory—only for those who want to participate—nor should it occur after their shift is finished.

On top of this, there are several ways that you can provide for staff wellbeing: 

  • COVID testing and treatment – Regular onsite COVID testing is one of the simplest ways to demonstrate to both staff and residents that their safety is your utmost priority.  Some senior living communities have gone out of their way to cover the costs for COVID treatment. Others have instituted mandatory sick leave policies for any workers with flu-like symptoms and provided extra sick days for COVID recovery. 

Additionally, an open channel of communication is key. Transparency helps reduce fear and makes them feel confident in the knowledge that your community has a specific plan for managing the situation. 

  • Creating a work family – The more ways your staff has to bond, the better. Finding opportunities to keep your team connected matters. Especially in light of social distancing, work may be one of the few outlets they have for friendship and socialization. To help with this, consider starting work groups with common interests, such as:

  • Book clubs
  • Praise and worship
  • Game nights 

A simple way to maintain spirits is to make the break room fun. Ideas include scavenger hunts, trivia contests, television, or other diversions like Wii U. All of these things give your staff an opportunity to blow off steam, relax, and build community.  

  • Wellbeing tools – Whether it’s mindfulness videos, at-home fitness programs, or voluntary mental health seminars, there are a variety of options for supporting staff wellbeing. These tools can help them respond to the job’s immense physical and emotional demands in a healthy manner.      

Offer Discounts and Other Incentives

The life and job of your staff is hard enough as is. It’s important that you find little outlets to alleviate their stress. 

Small quality of life changes can make a big difference. For instance, consider lifting or stretching the non-life safety rules of the workplace. Allow staff to be on their cell phones, especially since they may have a child at thome. Give more frequent breaks and let staff use printers or computers for personal use. 

Look for ways to stretch staff’s paycheck further. Ideas include: 

  • Work with vendors that have a “cash-back” program for employees
  • Offer customized rebates that fit their lifestyle or individual preferences 
  • Give discounts on food or vending machines 

Even if there may be some revenue loss due to lack of move-ins at this time, investing in your staff is a smart decision that will pay dividends over the long-run. 

Sentrics: Supporting Your Residents and Staff 

COVID has been an unprecedented event—one to which we as a nation continue to face together.  That said, a community’s success starts with its frontline workers. So if your goal is to improve the quality of care, focus on making your staff’s wellbeing a priority. You can champion your staff by:

  • Leveraging products to help ease staff burden
  • Recognizing their deeds
  • Providing resources to help during challenging times
  • Working with third-parties to arrange for discounts and other incentives 

At Sentrics, our mission is to help you support your residents and your team

We surround your entire community with a comprehensive suite of data-driven solutions that provide a 360-degree view of residents. By partnering with us, we can help ease the burden on staff by transforming senior care from being reactive to proactive.

Sources: 

  1. Senior Housing News. With 40% of Frontline Workers Under Financial Hardship, Senior Living Providers Step Up Support. https://seniorhousingnews.com/2020/04/27/with-40-of-frontline-workers-under-financial-hardship-senior-living-providers-step-up-support/
  2. Reward Gateway. New Research by Josh Bersin and Reward Gateway Shows Employee Engagement & Recognition Influence Overall Business Results. https://www.rewardgateway.com/press-releases/josh-bersin-and-reward-gateway-employee-engagement-research
  3. Senior Living news. Car Parade to Show Support for Residents and Staff at Russellville Park in Portland https://seniorlivingnews.com/car-parade-to-show-support-for-residents-and-staff-at-russellville-park-in-portland/
  4. Senior Housing News. Senior Living Providers Adjust Operations, Raise Pay to Meet Covid-19 Staffing Challenges. https://seniorhousingnews.com/2020/03/30/senior-living-providers-adjust-operations-raise-pay-to-meet-covid-19-staffing-challenges/
  5. Oxford Academic. Supporting Hospital Staff During COVID-19: Early Interventions. https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/70/5/327/5843740

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