Assisted living facilities have faced definite trials since the onset of COVID-19. Navigating protocols and implementing restrictions has created a whole new environment for assisted living centers. Our friend Sima Lerman, Vice President of Business Development at Advantage Living Centers, has been particularly adept at pivoting and adapting, and spoke with us about which ways can we keep people safe, as well as provide helpful services.
Advantage Living Centers are based throughout Michigan with on focus on the community of Detroit. The company is minority and women-owned, with deep roots in the Detroit Metropolitan area with a mission to give back to the community to which they belong. Advantage Living Centers is made up of ten nursing homes and two assisted living facilities as well as a range of partnerships with hospitals across the state of Michigan.
The pandemic has deeply impacted many of us across the world, but not much focus has been given to assisted living communities and what finding care looks like for those of us who have been impacted the most by this virus. Specifically, when looking at the state of Michigan, which has had very strict quarantine restrictions throughout the pandemic and with a surge of cases throughout the Northeast and Midwest of the country, it doesn’t seem like they will be opening up any time soon. With this understanding, we reflected with Lerman about what she has seen personally with Advantage Living Centers, and the impact of the pandemic in connection to the nursing home and assisted living communities.
Flexibility has been the theme for Lerman and the folks she works with during the time of COVID-19. The first few months of quarantine required everyone to have a certain amount of flexibility and that fact was no different for Advantage Living Centers when working with how to handle patients and what safety measures they should be implementing. Many staff members had to get creative with facilitating activities while also keeping in mind social distancing guidelines. This required the push for more independent activities or only allowing group activities with a smaller amount of people who are required to wear masks and stay six feet away from each other.
Lerman and her team throughout the Advantage Living Centers have found new ways to bring new patients into the community, without causing outbreaks. What does that mean? Here is just a sample of the new protocols:
- Separating all new patients for two weeks before slowly integrating
- Checking-in with their patients more regularly
- Improving communication with patients’ family members
These are the kinds of strides that are keeping Advantage Living Centers ahead of the curve.
Many patients throughout Michigan as well as other places in the country have had to get used to not being able to see their families and missing out on having visitations because of the fear of contracting the virus and causing an outbreak. Thankfully, when speaking to Lerman, we were told that folks at her facilities are able to have outdoor visitations or visits with a window barrier. While they have gotten innovative as a company to ensure that their patients are still able to connect with the ones they love, they have also taken the time to check in with family members for patients who are non-verbal, on a weekly or biweekly basis.
There has also been more of a push than ever to use all of the technology they have access to, in order to create safer ways to help people stay connected while also staying safe. They now use technology in their ceilings to ionize the air and kill viruses as well as bacteria. “This is the year of Zoom and FaceTime”, Lerman says after explaining how much her company utilizes virtual meeting services to help keep families connected with not just the patients at the facilities but also the people who give care and support.
What is important to understand is why people need assisting living services especially in times like the one we’re living in now. People who are dealing with dementia oftentimes need specific services that are mainly provided in assisted living communities and nursing homes. But with that in mind, many communities need to ensure that they are safe from the spread of the virus. Advantage Living Centers is happy to say that all of their centers are COVID free but that is from following strict safety guidelines, to ensure that patients and staff members stay safe.
Lerman has certainly done an exceptional job with Advantage Living Centers, and we all can learn from their initiatives.