The COVID-19 outbreak has totally upended American life. That’s especially true in senior living.
As the epidemic evolves, leaders across the industry are struggling to strike the balance between the risks of exposure, and the risks of isolation.
Not easy! But Balfour Senior Living, an 8-community senior living organization with locations in Colorado and Michigan, has found a critical tool for the task: LifeLoop.
According to Louise Garrels, Balfour’s director of marketing and communications, LifeLoop has made it much easier to preserve a sense of community in the age of ‘social distancing.’
“LifeLoop solves so many of the problems you have when you’re reaching a huge number of residents and family members all at once,” Louise says. “It keeps us all connected, in a way that’s scalable and transparent.”
Here’s how Balfour deploys LifeLoop to make sure no one in their communities feel alone —even during a crisis.
Easing fears — by elevating service
Among Balfour’s residents and families, the coronavirus crisis had a predictable effect. Once the news circulated that older adults were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, family members naturally became anxious for their loved ones’ safety.
“When shelter-in-place started happening, and family members couldn’t come in to check on things anymore, they started having a lot of concerns,” Louise says.
These concerns weren’t just about the virus. Family members worried how the outbreak would affect the quality of life of Balfour’s residents. In the high-stress environment created by the Coronavirus, would the organization be able to uphold their high standards of care?
LifeLoop helped Balfour’s team answer that question with a resounding, “Yes.”
“LifeLoop gives loved ones a window into our resident experience. If they notice for example, ‘Mom’s window is stuck’, or ‘Mom’s light went out’, they can use LifeLoop to put in requests directly with our maintenance team.”
These may seem like small gestures. But in a public health crisis, those small gestures mean a lot. They mean continuity and consistency. They show both residents and family members that Balfour’s team is paying attention.
“When families are isolated from their loved ones, LifeLoop assures them — everything is going to be okay,” Louise says.
Staying well — by staying engaged
Balfour has always had a robust life enrichment program. Louise doesn’t hesitate to say that she’s proud of it.
“We have more than 200 unique activities per community, every month,” she says.
Has that level of engagement slipped during the coronavirus outbreak? Not at all. And LifeLoop is a significant reason why.
LifeLoop streamlines the activity planning process. The platform gives life enrichment teams and other administrators an at-a-glance understanding of their activity programs, at both a systemic and facility level.
This makes it easier for teams to see which activities have already been done, which are well attended, and which might stand for some alteration.
“It’s a way of motivating our life-enrichment teams. This team has X number of activities? Well, that facility’s going to come up with even more! It unlocks that healthy sense of competition that keeps Balfour dynamic,” Louise says.
And, perhaps even more important, family members have visibility into everything their loved ones participate in.
“Thanks to LifeLoop, they know that the resident they care about isn’t just sitting around,” Louise says. “It’s one thing if we tell them that their loved one is doing well. But LifeLoop helps them see it.”
Staying safe — by staying connected
During the COVID-19 epidemic, everybody’s email inbox has taken a pummeling. From the tasteful to the tone-deaf, every business is rushing to reach their customers with special messages catered to the coronavirus phenomenon.
Senior living organizations, of course, have important, substantive messages to relay to family members. About visitation policies; about resident safety; about the general welfare of their communities. They need a way to break through the COVID inbox clutter, and do it in a way that’s consistent with their brand.
To accomplish this, Balfour relies on LifeLoop.
“It’s totally unprecedented, this urgent need to instantaneously communicate with all our family members, all the time,” Louise says. “I don’t know how we’d manage it without LifeLoop.”
Balfour has hosted virtual town halls through the platform. They’ve broadcast important announcements and video-letters from leadership. And they’ve used it to tailor individual messages to hundreds of residents’ loved ones, who are all eager for updates.
“With email, you have reliability issues. If everyone’s sending out their own emails, there’s no easy way to really guarantee that the messaging is going to be exactly what we want to say,” Louise says. “LifeLoop gives us visibility and helps us stay consistent, across the entire system, and we can guarantee deliverability for every message we send out.”
Even better, using LifeLoop in this way has helped Balfour create a knowledge base for the best way to reach their customers.
“It took some time to standardize our messaging practices, but with LifeLoop, we have a shared learning environment, where all of us are constantly learning from each other,” Louise says.
In a crisis — but always a community
Finally, LifeLoop’s special features have helped to re-affirm what Balfour locations have always been: not just care facilities, but true communities of caregivers, residents, and their families.
“You’re used to thinking of senior living as this 2-D thing, right?” Louise says. “There’s the resident, there’s the care staff, and that’s it. But that’s not really the whole story. The third dimension is that family member/loved one connection. LifeLoop helps us keep that in focus.”
By opening up multiple lines of communication, LifeLoop strengthens the bonds that residents and their families feel to Balfour communities — and even opens up new opportunities for connection that no one had previously thought of.
“In many of our communities, LifeLoop enables family members to send messages directly to specific staff members. They can thank them for their work, call out excellent service, whatever they want. The end result is that both of them — the staff member and the family — end up with a special sense of connection to their communities,” Louise says.
This ability was never more important than now, when COVID-19 has senior living organizations across the country shuttered to family members. Louise likes to tell a story to emphasize this point.
One resident at a Balfour community was extremely resistant to technology. Video-chat and smart-phone selfies were alien concepts to him. Even during shelter-in-place, when his son had no other means of seeing him, this resident still refused to take up a tablet.
But LifeLoop gave the resident’s son a workaround.
“He used LifeLoop to reach a Balfour staff member he could trust,” Louise says, “it was a caring staff member who he asked ‘Hey, my dad hates technology, but I’d love to see him. If you can, would you send me a picture of him, just so I can see he’s doing okay?’”
That staff member did one better. She visited the resident in his room, and convinced him to give FaceTime a try with her own phone. For the first time in weeks, father and son were having a face-to-face conversation — all facilitated by LifeLoop.
All about connection
Those moments are what Louise — and the LifeLoop team — live for.
Sustaining a real sense of connection, keeping family members ‘in the loop’, has been the animating spirit of LifeLoop since the beginning. It’s a sense of mission that Louise is thrilled to share.
“You can’t overstate the value of this,” Louise says. “From a marketing perspective, from an operational perspective, from the perspective of resident welfare, these connections really matter.”
And as powerful an effect that LifeLoop has had at Balfour, Louise knows she’s only beginning to discover its potential.
“I feel like I’m learning something new every day,” she says.
From what we’ve seen, Louise has already learned a lot. We can’t wait to see what she and her team come up with next.