Special Edition: COVID-19 Communication Tips
Senior Living Crisis Communication Tips for COVID-19
The World Health Organization has officially used the term “pandemic” in relation to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Senior living communities are especially vulnerable to this disease, so what your community does next matters.
Effective and pro-active communication with residents, families, referral sources, and prospects should be a high priority for every senior living housing and care provider. If you have a crisis communication policy, dust it off and start executing the plan. If you do not have something in place, here are some tips to follow when communicating about COVID-19.
Be Open, Honest, & Transparent
Residents, families, prospects, and referral sources want to be reassured that you have a plan in place to minimize risk and exposure to your residents and staff. Plan to communicate at least daily with a dedicated hotline number with a regularly updated recording or a live central contact available to answer questions. Provide specifics on your protocols and reference the CDC recommendations for reducing risk and exposure to residents and staff.
Here are some links to include in your communication:
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Situation Summary
- What you need to know about 2019 Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet
- What to do if you are sick with 2019 Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet
- Prevention & Treatment
Address the Most Pressing Concerns
Some of the most pressing questions include the following—make sure your community has answers:
- Is my loved one safe right now and how will you ensure their safety throughout this crisis?
- Will you close the community to visitors, and if so, how will you provide resident status updates?
- Are you stopping admissions, cancelling events and trips, serving residents on paper or delivering meals to apartments?
- Do you have enough staff and supplies?
- Are you increasing inventory of medical, food, and service supplies?
- Have you increased your cleaning/ disinfecting protocols?
- Are you retraining staff and hosting Town Hall meetings with residents?
- What will you do if the virus is detected in the community?
People want to know what steps you’re taking to minimize risk, and they expect regular communication.
Use Every Communication Channel
You don’t know how or where people will go to access info, so use all communication channels you have available to deliver a consistent message and updates.
Website. Put a banner on your website with a link to your prepared statement. See this example.
Email. Send emails, as needed, to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. Outline your resident safety protocols, reassure fearful and anxious family members, and provide communication information so they can get regular updates.
Phone. Have a dedicated hotline to provide regular communication. This can be a central person available at the corporate level, recordings at the community level, or a call center. The more proactively you push out information, the fewer burdens there will be in managing incoming calls.
Live Chat. Provide your live chat partner with your crisis communication plan and FAQs so they can engage with website visitors.
Automated messaging technologies. Communication platforms, such as Voicefriend, automate notifications to residents, families, and staff via recorded phone messages, text, and email.
SMS. Do a bulk text notification to all residents, family members, and responsible parties with links to your updated notification channels, such as your hotline and website.
Prepare a media statement. Be prepared in case there is an outbreak in your community. If the media contact your community, your department heads need to have a prepared statement that they can provide to reporters. Here is an example from Brookdale.
Example to follow: Brookdale has done a great job communicating their plan. They even created a COVID-19 Toolkit. Check it out here.
As always, if you need help creating or setting up any of these items, we can help.