LCS is launching a new program this week that aims to create a cultural shift for the company and ultimately change the way it operates once Covid-19 subsides.
Eversafe 360° is a comprehensive, science-based initiative establishing new safety standards across the Des Moines, Iowa-based company’s portfolio during seismic events — such as the pandemic — that can adversely impact operations. The LCS Family of Companies, which includes operator Life Care Services, is the second-largest senior living provider in the United States, with 139 rental communities and life plan communities in over 30 states.
“There’s going to be a [Covid-19] hangover with senior housing,” Executive Vice President/Senior Managing Director of Life Plan Communities Rick Exline said. “We want to find a way to address that objection of fear, because seniors are now thinking, ‘Am I less safe in a communal living environment than I would be in living my own home?’”
LCS established an interdisciplinary task force to identify operational strengths and weaknesses, and gather input from residents, staff, families and other stakeholders to determine a course of action. The operator received input from over 500 individuals, with 98% grading its pandemic response good or excellent.
The survey revealed two areas for improvement: how to support residents during times of change; and the toll the ongoing pandemic is placing on residents and frontline workers.
If Eversafe 360° proves successful, it will assist residents in adapting to sudden changes in their living environments, and contribute to more positive outcomes as they age.
“[It’s about] being sensitive and aware of what we can do from a relationship perspective, to continue to provide what seniors move to retirement communities for,” Exline said. “That’s the relational nature of living in an environment with your peers.”
Six major objectives
Eversafe 360° will establish six foundational programs geared toward enhancing the safety of communities and those who reside and work in them.
LCS is establishing a medical advisory board of physicians, gerontologists, industrial hygienists and other medical professionals with deep institutional knowledge of senior living environments, infectious diseases, and global trends in care and safety. The operator is in the process of interviewing candidates for the board, and it will include a current LCS resident with a medical background, to provide a resident’s perspective.
Another program, LCS Engage, is the company’s version of a residents’ assistance program. Through LCS Engage, individuals can seek the appropriate assessment, counseling, and other assistance to adjust to changes to isolation. This group will also be involved in supporting any type of medical trial that LCS believes could be helpful in promoting the long-term wellness and safety of seniors.
In fact, LCS already launched a trial with Johnson & Johnson, in which residents wear Apple Watches over a two-plus year period to assess certain heart movements and conditions. The information gathered from this trial will be used by Johnson & Johnson to develop a mass electronic health platform.
“[LCS Engage] is a program that’s designed to be at the right place and right time for our seniors, as they are dealing with change,” Exline said.
LCS is ramping up telemedicine, which is gaining in popularity and scale as the pandemic continues. The operator is discussing partnerships with several telemedicine providers, and while it has long offered telemedicine to higher care segments, it plans to expand the service to independent living residents.
“It’s the wave of the future,” Exline said.
Everclean 360 is a partnership with Proctor & Gamble centered on improving sanitation and indoor air quality within the senior living environment, with a focus on using environmentally friendly cleaning products and chemicals for deep cleaning, as well as techniques such as UVC lighting and needlepoint ionization to purify the air in LCS’ communities.
Finally, LCS is reassessing how to design and repurpose its indoor spaces to find a balance between respecting social distancing protocols and encouraging relationship-building among residents within its communities.
The indoor air quality initiative will be the first segment launched in the Eversafe 360° program. LCS spent time developing the program with epidemiologists and consultants from Michigan State University. Additionally, the operator intends to release a white paper in a couple weeks sharing the lessons learned from its research, and establish guidelines for communities looking to improve indoor air quality.
The other segments are expected to launch throughout 2021.
Leveraging scale for efficiencies
Eversafe 360° leverages LCS’ scale to respond to emergency situations such as natural disasters, future pandemics and other crisis events that can threaten the level of care provided to residents.
Currently, the operator is piloting a 24-hour crisis response line in a handful of communities, and hopes to expand the program across its portfolio in the coming months, as it works out the kinks.
LCS will establish a centralized storage program via a network of warehouses across the country where it can store emergency supplies and equipment for any contingency — whether it be personal protective equipment (PPE) for viral outbreaks; chainsaws, emergency generators and satellite radios in the event of hurricanes, forest fires or tornadoes; and other items necessary to maintain operations if a disruption occurs in a community.
The operator is exploring an emergency response team concept, to fill staffing voids caused by a critical event. This would come in particularly handy during viral outbreaks such as the pandemic. Staff infections have outpaced resident cases by a two-to-one ratio through the pandemic, LCS President and CEO Joel Nelson told SHN in September.
Exline envisions these emergency response teams to be packed and ready to pitch in at a community in a moment’s notice, and they would consist of workers ranging from medical professionals and nurses’ aides to receptionists and bus drivers.
Other senior living providers have been making changes during Covid-19 that will inform their future models, with executives saying that the pandemic will ultimately lead to stronger operations. Exline acknowledged that Eversafe 360° will serve as a launching point for the future of LCS.
“It’s going to be focused on being better for our residents, not only during the worst of times, but in the best of times, too,” he said.