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A Targeted Approach to Managing Common Challenges Faced by Assisted Living Facilities During the Winter Months

Caring for seniors living in assisted living can be difficult even during the warm summer months. But once we reach winter and the holidays there are additional challenges faced by seniors, their families, and the communities where they live. Managing staffing during respiratory outbreaks, ensuring your staff is up-to-date on vaccinations, and counteracting the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be more than a facility can manage on its own.

Here you can find some targeted approaches to provide a safe and healthy environment and put some cheer back into your staff and residents’ lives. You can also find some respiratory virus prevention tips and ways to keep everyone in your facility healthy.

What are the Challenges Faced by Assisted Living Facilities During the Winter?

  • Short staffing due to illness: Unfortunately, people get sick, and this occurrence only increases in the winter months. It is nearly impossible to plan ahead and prevent short staffing due to illness. Having staff on-call can be challenging as they will want guaranteed hours to stay on board. 
  • Outbreaks due to Respiratory viruses: Assisted-living facilities tend to get hit hard by outbreaks associated with the Flu, Covid-19, and recently RSV. These outbreaks can be costly and require extra staffing to provide the increased level of care needed to keep everyone healthy and safe. 
  • Increased demand for behavioral health support from residents: The holiday months can be difficult for seniors. They may not have family nearby or are struggling with grief and the loss of a life partner or friend. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) usually affects people starting in late fall and can last until the spring when the warmth and sun return. Symptoms of SAD can look similar to common depression symptoms such as sleeping more than usual, overeating, and not socializing with others. The rate of depression, which includes SAD can be more than double in seniors who live in community settings. The CDC estimates up to 13.5% of seniors requiring home health or related services suffer from depression.

How To Ensure you Have Adequate Staffing to Manage Staff Illnesses and Facility Outbreaks

One of the first things you can do is make vaccinations readily available for your staff; the best way to do this is with on-site vaccination clinics. Flu vaccines are proven to help prevent illness and lower the risk of hospitalization and prolonged illness. 

  • Save time and resources by booking an on-site flu clinic run by nurses
  • Prevent short staffing related to staff illnesses
  • Utilize comprehensive services that include online registration, set-up, clean-up, and removal of any waste.

As we all know, illness can not always be prevented and it is a good idea to have a plan in place if staff or resident outbreaks occur. One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to do this is by partnering with a reputable staffing agency. Make sure you consider these factors to find the best partner for your facility:

  • You will need staff with experience working in assisted living and senior communities
  • You need to quickly access and acquire healthcare professionals to fill your staff vacancies right away and ensure continuity of care for your residents
  • The agency will need a large pool of experienced care providers to fill roles including caregivers, medication aids, nurses, and more

What are Behavioral Health Services and How Can They Help?

Behavioral health services are critical to the well-being of seniors as they provide individualized benefits to each person. Speaking with trained mental health professionals can be the difference between seniors enjoying their lives or developing depression. Behavioral health services aim to help seniors develop tools they can use when they are feeling down. Having these tools and resources in place before someone experiences SAD or an unexpected emotional event can make a big difference.

Behavioral health services are generally offered through psychiatry offices and require seniors to travel for their services. At TrueCare24 they aim to remove barriers and increase access to these services. They offer in-home, On-site, or Virtual Telehealth options to deliver specialty care directly to your residents. 

Respiratory Virus Prevention and Best Practices

There are several ways you can help protect your staff and residents from respiratory viruses. Here are some prevention strategies and best practices to implement today:

  • Encourage flu vaccines for residents and staff
  • Post signs to remind everyone to wash their hands and cover their nose and mouth
  • Implement infection control measures such as routine disinfection of common surfaces and improving ventilation
  • Remind ill staff to stay home when sick. Remind residents to stay in their rooms and report to staff if they feel ill.

How do TrueCare Services Work?

TrueCare partners with experienced healthcare professionals across the country to provide you with multiple services that allow you to provide high-quality care within your facility. These services include:

  • Behavioral support that delivers specialist care to residents in your facility.
  • OnDemand Staffing to fill temporary or long-term vacancies caused by staff illness, increased resident care demands, and more.
  • Flu Vaccination Clinics that provide your staff with easy and convenient access to this important preventative tool. 
  • COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and control services allow you convenient and cost-effective access to a wide array of resources.

Final Thoughts from an Experienced Nurse

With over 10 years of experience caring for seniors and surviving my fair share of flu and respiratory outbreaks in assisted living facilities, trust me when I say it is better to be prepared. Partner with a trusted staffing agency so you are ready for anything that comes your way. Have a plan in place to counteract the impact of the holiday blues and SAD that can affect residents. With these measures in place, your staff and residents can weather any challenges that come their way. 

Brooke Schmidt

RN, BSN

Brooke is currently a registered nurse with over 10 years of clinical experience working with pediatric, adult, and geriatric patients. She has spent the last eight years working in home health, community care, and palliative care. She has also specialized in complex wound management. Brooke is currently using her experience and background to educate others through freelance writing. She is currently living in Oregon and enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her family.

You can find Brooke Schmidt on LinkedIn

Contact our team today to learn more about how we can support you.

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