Response & Recovery: How PR Supports Senior Living During COVID-19

November 10, 2020 | Thomas Logue

2020 continues to present the world with many monumental challenges, but none have been more impactful to the senior living industry than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early on in the pandemic, as information about the virus and best practices for infection control began to take shape, so, too, did the expectations and urgency around communicating with residents, their loved ones and staff. Open and honest communications, coupled with ethical action, proved vital to preserving trust and goodwill (and ultimately the bottom lines) of many senior care communities.

To support this crucial effort, AKCG worked closely and collaboratively with its clients in senior care to anticipate, navigate and communicate pivotal, even grim, milestones at the outset of the pandemic.

While many individuals within the industry did not truly confront the virus until mid-March, some senior living organizations began making advanced plans and preparations weeks—if not months—earlier, bolstering supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and evaluating their infection-control policies. For a short time, health and safety concerns simmered among some in the industry, but those concerns boiled over—almost overnight—after the first major senior living outbreak at a Seattle-area nursing home. All at once, senior living communities were thrust into the spotlight as a key player in the pandemic.

Questions swirled.

  • How are you protecting residents and staff?
  • Do you have adequate PPE?
  • Will you close your community to outside visitors? (And, eventually, did you close it soon enough?)
  • Is the virus spreading within your community?
  • How many cases (suspected or confirmed) do you have?
  • What efforts are you making to test residents/staff? (And who will pay for it?)

Although some of the answers remained unclear, rapid response and communication were, nonetheless, vital.

Early in the pandemic, information related to the virus’s prevalence, recommended infection-control procedures and our basic understanding of the virus changed almost daily. Maintaining open and transparent communication with residents, staff and families was vital to preserving each organization’s reputation. AKCG’s counselors worked closely with clients to help navigate this ever-changing landscape and communicate critical and unwelcome milestones—such as a first confirmed case of COVID-19, the passing of residents and major disruptions to operations.

As we move forward through this historic crisis, the communications focus in senior living shifted from response to recovery, and months of prominent media coverage, regulatory scrutiny and prolonged financial strain will undoubtedly raise new challenges. In these moments, honesty, transparency and ethical action will be—as they have always been—the guiding stars to mitigate reputational risk to your organization.

To learn more about how AKCG can support your organization through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, contact us.