This article is sponsored by PointClickCare. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with PointClickCare Senior Director of Market Development Senior Living Cheryl Crooks to learn why senior living must understand the relationship for residents between physical wellness and mental health. She also shares her passion for CCRCs, and highlights how access to data is creating seamless care transitions across the continuum.
Your career has been a varied one, including six years as a director for a hospice provider. What are the most important experiences in your career that you draw from for your position with PointClickCare?
Prior to PointClickCare, I always worked for a health care operator. What I have found is that no matter the environment, whether at an operator or at PointClickCare, communication and understanding the patient or user experience is the key to success. In hospice, physicians and practitioners don’t always speak in a way that patients and families understand. It can be difficult for these people, who are under stress, to consume the provider’s message. As a result, I became the translator early on in my career.
A lot of that applies to what I do at PointClickCare today. My role is to understand what our operators and communities need to serve an aging population, and communicate that — translate it — to our product, sales, marketing and customer success teams. We’re all constantly communicating needs and improving workflows of those using our technology.
One thing has remained constant: Put the patient or resident first and you’ll never go wrong.
I know you are passionate about how patients experience health care across all care settings. How should senior housing operators view that resident journey, including in looking at the relationship between physical wellness and mental health?
In my experience, we can often focus on the health care of a resident or a specific health event and forget how mental health contributes to overall wellness. The last few months have shown us all how important mental health can be to everyone’s wellbeing, but especially our seniors.
I’ve watched senior housing and assisted living operators evolve in the last 10 years. Not only do the best in the business understand the role that social engagement, programs and activities play in physical wellness, but they track that engagement, too. We’re seeing groups tracking various social determinants of health and using the data to provide the best possible care.
What are the most important ways that COVID-19 has impacted that health care experience for residents in senior living?
In one word: isolation. Our residents experienced a significant shift in their daily activities. No more communal dining and chatting with your favorite staff member at mealtime. No more live entertainment in the afternoons. Gardening clubs were put on hold. But the worst were zero hugs and visits from family. Our operators have stepped up and provided every available resource to help with the isolation. Caregivers became surrogate family in an even bigger way than before. There is no shortage of positive stories I could share. For every bad story in the press, I have hundreds of stories about things being done right.
For the operators, I saw a need for more coordinated care, so we saw them reach out and work to figure it out. Quickly! They also stepped in to help each other – a piece of advice over the phone, a group call to share ideas and opening up to solve any problem they faced.
How do the habits of the modern senior living resident mixed with the care needs of that resident come together to impact how care transitions do, and should, work?
Senior living residents are active and have a much bigger appetite for social engagements and activities during COVID. They also are aging in place and creating a lifelong home in the communities we serve. With that comes more care needs and a greater need to coordinate that care.
Our seniors want to stay in their communities but transitions to other care settings is sometimes part of the process. Transitions work best when data is shared. Care is better when we understand history and have visibility. We are supporting our health networks and communities by sharing data, offering effective transitions and insights. Our goal is to continue to support those serving our residents at the best possible place for care and services – home with home health, in senior living communities or skilled nursing facilities.
What are the most important technology components that senior living operators must have in order to provide the best resident care experience, including transitions?
There’s a checklist, of course. My co-workers would likely speak to the infrastructure for Wi-Fi for residents’ increased demand and staff’s access to data or software to support team members who deliver care. But you asked about the best, not the minimum.
So, the most important component of our technology is access and that it’s mobile. We have data and tools in the palm of our hand that enable us to care for residents. If you’re in a large community and need an app for skilled nursing or assisted living care, we have it. If you’re in a car, delivering home health care in our towns and cities, we have you covered there too. Transitions need real time data and because we’re mobile, we’re closer to real time than most.
You have a passion for continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs. Tell us about that. Why do you view them as so essential?
I rarely go to a CCRC that I don’t consider an option for retirement. I fall in love with a specific piece of all of them. They can be very unique. But it’s really the concept that I’m passionate about. I’m a big part of my local community. I like to be out and about – restaurants, socials, fundraising events, festivals — all that Louisiana offers. I see a CCRC as a community within a community. I expect when I get a bit older I may not want to cover as many miles a day, but I still want the same experience. I want a smaller version of my community. And that’s what the CCRC concept offers.
I’ll keep you posted on the one I pick, but I really liked one that offered a pottery studio and woodworking shop. The other top contender has a horse riding stable and a chef that’s out of this world!
Do you see any exciting industry changes to those CCRCs?
Our customer advisory board shared some interesting things that excite me about the model’s evolution. Some have been doing it for years but in a post-COVID world, we have more operators exploring more inclusive entry models. This would make CCRC living more affordable to more seniors. And for those operators looking at Medicare Advantage benefits in assisted living, this community style living has even more potential to see market share open up.
Looking ahead to 2021, how is PointClickCare working to break down the care silos that so often interfere with seamless care transitions, and why does that work matter more moving forward?
We have to share data. It gives providers a full picture of their residents before they come in the door – that’s a seamless transition of care! Providers at all care levels have been siloed for some time. In our new normal, we all see the need to accelerate change. PointClickCare is dedicated to transforming the experience of residents with partnerships in technology, data and innovation. We help break down silos to allow care to be delivered where it needs to be, regardless of where the resident is in their journey.
We can enhance the experience of our nurses, physicians, all staff – in nursing homes, senior living communities, acute settings and home health care – just by data sharing. Getting information before you meet your resident gives you the opportunity to see and treat a whole person.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
PointClickCare is the leading electronic health record (EHR) technology partner to North America’s long-term post-acute care and senior care industry. To learn more about how PointClickCare can help your business, visit pointclickcare.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.