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Even under the best of circumstances, it’s impossible for a senior living community to be completely free of risk for COVID-19. But it’s those “best of circumstances” that are going to help afflicted communities’ reputations rebound more quickly from cases of the virus and other crises that cannot reasonably be blamed on the organization.

But some crises can in fact be blamed on the organization. These are defined as smoldering crises, which build over time and are almost always the result of human error. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlines a five-star quality rating system for senior living communities that encompass several criteria. Five stars is the highest rating a community can receive; one star is the lowest.

In the current climate, low ratings and high numbers of coronavirus cases make a terrible combination. Reputational and even financial recovery are quite difficult.

But communities that previously earned good reviews, ratings and a favorable online reputation will fare much better, even if they experience crisis amidst the pandemic or some other unpreventable situation.

Reasons a community might have a poor reputation are both evident and insidious. Pre- and post-COVID, senior communities held in low esteem can result from any number of circumstances, including smoldering factors that could have been avoided. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Poor or sporadic communication with staff, residents, their families and stakeholders
  • Not listening to staff or soliciting their feedback on workplace satisfaction, recommendations for resident relations, activities, operations, etc.
  • Not tapping into team members’ natural strengths
  • Talking more than listening
  • Believing there is little room to improve
  • Lacking innovation or creativity
  • Lack of trust in employees
  • Demeaning, dismissive treatment of staff
  • Taking credit for others’ work or ideas
  • “Ivory Tower” mentality, whereby management seldom connects with staff, residents and their families
  • Passing the buck or blaming others for problems

In most cases, all of these iniquities can be avoided, and each has a positive flip side that could salvage a senior community’s reputation and future prospects, even in the face of COVID-19 or other non-smoldering crises, such as a natural disaster or terror attack.

If residents, staff, families and others had good things to say about a community before the pandemic or other crisis for which the community cannot justifiably be held responsible, they will continue to offer praise and support post-crisis…especially if they’ve been properly and empathetically notified throughout all stages of the crisis and informed of what has taken place, how it’s being handled, and why it’s necessary for the good of all concerned.

Said one woman whose mother lives in an independent community, “Even if there are cases of COVID reported there, they’ve always done such an excellent job, and I trust them to take the right actions. I would continue to commend – and recommend – them.”

To mitigate smoldering crisis – the kind that makes people less forgiving when unforeseen crisis strikes – management would be wise not only to change such behaviors as listed above, but also to pay close attention to their online reputation.

Regular monitoring of comments and discourse on social media, job sites and consumer reviews about their community is paramount. So too is compassionate, transparent, accountable response. Social media is where people can speak freely, and all the world’s a stage. Often, disgruntled employees, family members and residents themselves will take to social media only after attempts to communicate with management have been ignored or unsatisfactory.

Indeed, a favorable reputation established and entrenched before sudden crisis is the best “insurance” of all.

ResponderHub™ is the first crisis communications solution designed specifically for the senior housing and services industry. Backed by 30 years of marketing and public relations expertise in the senior living space, IVY Marketing Group created ResponderHub™ to offer senior housing professionals the tools they need to create, maintain and restore good faith in their communities.

To learn more about the development of this product, contact us today.