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Navigating the Unknown with Health and Well-being as a Priority Part 2
Experience Paves the Way to Resident Satisfaction
Part 2 of a 2-part series
Relying on the vast experience of our corporate resources — clinical teams, risk management expertise, group purchasing opportunities and financial know-how — Life Care Services has effectively managed our senior living communities during these challenging times. By adopting protocols and precautionary measures, along with a dedicated system of communication, employees, residents, and family members have benefited from timely and accurate information distributed quickly to senior living communities across the country. Our focus on communication as outlined in part 1 demonstrates expertise from all operational areas is necessary to help ensure health and safety of residents.
Maintaining Resident Satisfaction
Life Care Services has a proven reputation of high resident satisfaction. An essential element of that success is adhering to open and authentic communication. In a recent Holleran satisfaction survey of residents, 95% of respondents indicated they felt very safe living at a senior living community managed by Life Care Services.
“At Life Care Services we have a philosophy of ‘no secrets and no surprises.’ As such, we share good news and bad news,” says Rick Exline, LCS executive vice president and senior managing director of Life Plan Communities. “If a community had positive cases of COVID-19, we informed all audiences — employees, residents, and their families. We believe that did a lot to enhance the credibility of our actions and helped our residents understand the importance of the precautions and safety protocols being implemented. From a service perspective, our leadership worked to find ways to get to ‘yes’ to meet the needs of residents.”
To maintain resident comfort, Life Care Services initiated several efforts. Room service was upgraded, technology assistance was provided to virtually connect family and friends, and daily calls were conducted by staff to create social engagement and interact with residents.
“We are doing weekly live broadcasts through our in-house television and having some fun with it to put smiles on our residents’ faces,” says Amanda Elliott, corporate operations director at The Marshes of Skidaway Island in Savannah, Georgia. Elliott echoed Exline’s comments that communication is an important part of the process. “When it comes to communicating changes, we have been specific in explaining the reasoning behind it and the residents have been very supportive. We try to lighten the mood when we can and also let them know that we care and are here for them,” she says.
Team Members Provided with Necessary Tools
A motivated and committed network of professionals is crucial to overcoming the challenges of a crisis. Life Care Services recognized another priority was maintaining the morale of all team members. As the nation’s second largest operator of senior housing, Life Care Services relied on experience and financial strength to preserve a safe and quality work environment.
“We used our resources to secure and supply all our communities with enough personal protective equipment,” says Exline. “Our team members were confident that when they showed up to work, they would have the right equipment to keep them, and residents, safe. We also provided meals to team members as they left the community to go home, and we initiated hero pay when necessary.”
“Early on there was a lot of discussion around the availability of personal protective equipment which obviously became a very high priority,” says Elliott. “To have Life Care Services working for us to resolve this need, we were able to overcome this huge challenge.”
According to Exline some leadership teams lived in their communities for weeks to reduce the risk of exposure. “Our team members held true to their professional responsibilities. Everybody stepped up and supported other roles. It was so heart-warming and encouraging to see that in action,” he says.
“We also made a concerted effort to help sales team members remain focused on the mission of helping seniors with a sales first approach,” says Michael Eaton, vice president and senior director of marketing and sales for the life plan division. “We reinforced that their efforts demonstrate seniors are safe, more comfortable, and more engaged at a senior living community. Our role at Life Care Services is to do the heavy lifting, so our communities can remain focused on fulfilling their mission.”
At communities managed by Life Care Services, residents and staff are all one family. Providing different experiences to maintain the spirit, camaraderie and connections at the communities is important. Every day there are examples of encouragement and support.
At The Marshes of Skidaway Island in Savannah, Georgia, residents sponsored a fundraiser to express appreciation for everything the staff was doing to care for them. “Residents raised over $20,000!” Elliott says. “They bought polo shirts and gift cards for all team members. It was a great expression of support, and a collaborative effort in having a little fun during a serious situation.”
Families and Friends Play Critical Role
Navigating a community’s current status has been top of mind for families and friends of residents. Life Care Services knew the importance of being responsive with timely updates as to the status at every community.
“The same updates we distributed to residents were sent to the families on a weekly basis,” says Elliott. “We also have dedicated managers available 12 hours a day who are communicating with family members over the phone or through Skype to provide information, answer questions, or put their mind at ease. The families have been incredibly grateful for everything we are doing.”
Capitalizing on this experience, Life Care Services is developing a preparedness plan for how the organization operates in times like a pandemic. It’s a comprehensive commitment to studying and understanding the lessons learned.
“We are analyzing everything from food service delivery to HVAC to disinfecting processes to providing higher-level, personalized concierge services,” says Exline. “We are capturing the science of this experience and putting it into an operating model that allows us to have things like a 90-day inventory of personal protective equipment or a visitor area with protective barriers to mitigate potential transmission between persons. In this process, we will evaluate nearly every element of the community experience.”
“We’ve gone from delivering services in-person to virtual or no-contact, and we have had to get creative with our service approach. Now, our residents don’t want us to take away the things we put into place,” Elliott says with a smile. “They want the best of both worlds, like the option of attending a virtual fitness class or participating in person.”
The way people have embraced and increased their usage of virtual communication methods is a benefit to Life Care Services according to Eaton. He says, “We were able to help others figure out their preferred method of communication. And when people are in their most comfortable communication environment, we’re able to successfully connect and achieve a greater level of understanding.”
“Every decision we made prior to, and during, COVID-19 has been about what is best and what is right,” stated Exline. “We believe our residents would say that during a time of anxiety and uncertainty, Life Care Services has created an environment where they feel safe. We will keep fighting the good fight.”
As senior living communities evolve, two priorities will always remain consistent — adhering to the core principles of Life Care Services and doing what is best and right for the seniors it serves.
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