Redefining the Senior Care Living Sector with Medical Innovations
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge that brought out the best of our brave frontliners as they ringfenced our senior living communities in an attempt to shield our residents from the external environment and the invisible enemy.
The adaptability they have demonstrated, the modifications in how we deliver services, the ever changing medical protocol to combat the changing threat levels of the virus and the insights that we have gleaned will inform the operations of our current communities and will also be reflected in the design of our future communities at Columbia Pacific Communities.
In fact, the first and second waves of the pandemic brought with them different and unique challenges and truly stretched the ingenuity and creativity of our teams to combat them.
The first wave of COVID -19 was marked by a distinct lack of scientific understanding of how the virus behaved, what caused it to spread, what precautions could be taken to impede the spread and how it could be best treated. Such an atmosphere of ignorance is fertile ground for the spread of misinformation and disinformation. In a technology enabled world where all it take to spread such news is the click of the “forward” icon on WhatsApp, our challenge was to combat the concern and chaos this caused with regular, sustained and confident communication backed by science and endorsed by our medical health partners, Columbia Asia Hospitals.
Zoom, now as ubiquitous as voice calls used to be in the days before COVID – 19, was also used by the Wellness teams to educate residents through panel discussions and Q&A sessions with eminent doctors that helped to allay the concerns that emanated from the Inbox in WhatsApp.
Another unique creation during the first wave was The Living Room by Columbia Pacific Communities. Open to all – residents and Facebook followers alike, this live video interaction brought into the living rooms of the participants, celebrities who addressed spoke about their area of expertise and also took questions from the attendees.
It is with pride that one can share that all the celebrities including luminaries such Charu Sharma, Kabir Bedi, Nandita Das, Anu Malik to name a few, gave their time voluntarily and thoroughly enthralled the participants while enjoying the interaction themselves as well.
The time between the two waves and the availability of vaccines then given us the opportunity to provide our residents, the safety that comes from being vaccinated.
Relationships nurtured over the years with neighbouring hospitals and Public Health Centres resulted in our being able to facilitate the vaccine process. As a consequence we had almost 100% coverage for all eligible residents with the two doses of the vaccine. All frontline team members are also being covered.
By the time of the second wave a lot of our learnings now manifested themselves in the changed protocol and service delivery.
These changes can be seen in the creation of separate and dedicated spaces for the receipt of individual resident and community deliveries. A revised protocol ensures that all deliveries are made by Columbia Pacific Communities team members and that the goods are only delivered after appropriate “holding periods” and disinfection protocols.
Guest houses at the communities are now the first place of residence for visiting relatives and friends. It is only after a quarantine period in this facility and a subsequent negative RT-PCR test that visitors can integrate with the community.
Isolation rooms with oxygen support allow residents who show minor symptoms to quarantine themselves while remaining under the medical supervision of the community nursing team. This not only safeguards their spouse who can continue to live in their homes but also acts as a safer environment than a hospital where one can safely recover and recuperate without being exposed to additional risk.
Morning exercises and religious celebrations are being held digitally or in controlled physically-distanced environments. This ensures that physical distancing does not result in social isolation. It also ensures that residents do not feel lonely, isolated and hopeless.
One of the biggest causes of lowered immunity is anxiety and a feeling of isolation. We are currently in the midst of a month long cultural and music competition amongst residents from our nine communities located across five cities. Held over Zoom, we have participants cheered on by thousands of neighbours and family members from all over the world as they vie for individual wins and community points – all culminating with the Champion Community being crowned on World Senior Citizens’ Day on August 21, 2021.
The regular meal menus have been supplemented with immunity boosting beverages that are served twice a week. Furthermore, menus have been modified to include ingredients that work to boost the immunity of our residents.
Future communities will include accommodation for team members within the community. This will ensure that residents are never wanting for daily services and medical support and that neither they, nor team members have unnecessary exposure to the external environment.
The challenges posed by COVID – 19, its ever evolving variants and the accompanying modifications to protocol may well be with us for some time to come. Until we have herd immunity against most variants, a booster vaccine which gives us continued protection from severe symptoms and most importantly, a medical treatment that will address the impact of the virus in a manner that it reduces mortality rates, we will continue to exercise extreme caution.
The last 18 months have been difficult for the world at large. Especially affected have been senior citizens, their risk greater on account of accompanying co-morbidities. Senior citizens staying on their own have also had to grapple with anxiety and loneliness.
In effect, COVID-19 has been a dark cloud that has left every household having to bear their share of loss. On the other hand, it has also brought us closer to our residents and their families. I have no doubt that having fought and achieved greater understanding of the virus and its impact on individuals and relationships, we will find the world a kinder and nicer place and our industry more evolved and better prepared to serve our residents.