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Nexus Fellow

Nexus Fellow Flash Bulletin – March 2021

COVID has caused dramatic disruption in our education and healthcare systems and long term care environments. We wear masks, we distance, we stay home. So what have we learned? How can we come out stronger on the other side? Despite the massive challenges and barriers to implementation, there is a strong sense of hope on the horizon.

“Out of the tragedy of COVID, there are a lot of silver linings, a lot of good things we’re learning. Let’s seize the opportunity from the crisis so we can say we learned from it, and we won’t be here a year or two from now saying that nothing is different.” Nexus Founder & Fellow, Bob Kramer

While the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the seniors housing and long-term care industry, it’s also shed a big spotlight on this industry like never before. And that has advantages. After all, how could anyone identify a problem if they aren’t looking. People are paying attention now, and if we take this opportunity and make the changes needed, the senior living and long-term care industry will vastly improve post-pandemic.

Our Nexus Fellows are front and center. They’re experts, thinkers and entrepreneurs, bringing fresh ideas and important insights to the industry at this critical time. 

What’s the latest? Here’s a Nexus Fellow Flash Bulletin:

  • Bob Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights joined Jocelyn Dorsey, Becky Kurtz, Elise Eplan and Deke Cateau on a panel last month for A.G. Rhodes Living Well-Virtual to discuss the stark realities of what is happening with COVID19, aging, and in the senior housing world. “What became clear in our conversation is that, despite the overwhelming challenges and difficulty in pandemic protocols and vaccine strategies, there was a sense of hope throughout.
  • Jay Newton-Small, CEO of MemoryWell, announced $2.5 million in new Series Seed funding. The company will use this funding to scale its platform and to continue to build its predictive social determinants of health AI rating system.
  • Nexus Fellow Kelsey Mellard, CEO of Sitka, announced that Sitka has raised $14 million in Series A financing led by Venrock, with participation from existing investors Optum Ventures, Homebrew, First Round Capital, and Lifeforce Capital. This round of funding will enable Sitka to accelerate product development and expand growth with new and existing partners.
  • Jill Vitale-Aussem, president and CEO of Christian Living Communities, and Nexus Insights Fellow, was featured in a McKnight’s Senior Living piece on how the senior living industry needs to change. “We need meaningful purpose in our lives. We don’t need to live in a hotel. We need to belong…to continue growing and learning…I am a huge proponent of shifting our thinking of residents as customers, which really creates helplessness, and moving to a model of citizenship”
  • In an op-ed piece in The Dallas Morning News, Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Senior Care Group at Activated Insights and a Nexus Insights Fellow, with Nexus Insights Founder and Fellow Bob Kramer and author Ed Frauenheim offered five practical solutions for “repairing and renewing the industry.”
  • In a recent interview, Nexus Fellow Jody Holtzman cited four important trends to consider as we embark on a rebuild of a broken industry. Three of them are driving a changing view of health: the expanding holistic view of health that started with a focus on social determinants; the growing list of non-traditional supplemental benefits reimbursed by CMS; and, the increasing centrality of the home as the locus of health, care, and connected living. These are tempered however by a counter-trend: the slow uptake and limited usage of new supplemental benefits.
  • In a recent article for the journal Health Affairs, Nexus Fellow David Grabowski, along with Charlene Harrington, Anne Montgomery, Dr. Terris King, Sc.D., and Mike Wasserman, discussed recommendations for changes to public policy that would “make ownership, management, and financing more transparent and accountable to improve US nursing home care.”
  • In his latest piece on the SmartLiving 360 blog, Nexus Fellow Ryan Frederick explains that while Zillow provides comprehensive information about homes to purchase or rent, it can’t answer the question of what happens when you lose electricity and water for days, as happened in Texas recently. Whether neighbors come together as a community to help each other through the crisis has a big impact on whether you’ve chosen the right place to live.
  • Long-term services and supports (LTSS) when provided in the community as home and community-based services (HCBS) can be a lifeline to help a person live safely at home and age with dignity. In a position paper on HCBS, A Blueprint for Reforming Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports and Creating Good Caregiving Jobs, ATI Advisory CEO, and Nexus Fellow, Anne Tumlinson shared three recommendations for legislators and regulators to expand access to home-based care services sustainably and equitably. 
  • Sarah Thomas, CEO of Delight by Design and Nexus Fellow, was keynote speaker at the Rehab Tech Summit in February. In her speech titled, Designing the Future: Creating Your Own Path Through a Lens of Innovation, she said,  “It’s time we challenge our own views on aging. As we design products, services, spaces and communities we must design for ALL. Our designs should delight our consumers at every age. It was such a pleasure to share my professional journey that has taken me around the world changing the global perspectives on aging.”
  • Caroline Pearson recently completed a project looking at consumer experience measures for Medicare Advantage plans. The report recommendations holding plans accountable for aspects of consumer experience that are meaningful to beneficiaries and within the health plans’ control to improve. Caroline’s team at NORC continues to examine the impact of COVID-19 on older adults in seniors housing. Look for their report due out soon.
  • Dr. Bill Thomas will be featured in the 30th Annual Aging Well Conference hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Professional and Continuing Education Office on April 23 & 30. In his keynote, Dr. Thomas will deliver a multi-part interactive keynote “What if Everything we Know About Aging is Wrong?” followed by a Q&A session. In his breakout session “MAGIC:  Exploring Intergenerational Communities,” Dr. Thomas will share new concepts in Multi-Ability, Multi-Generational, Inclusive Communities that brings together people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

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Five Predictions for Senior Living Trends authors

5 Predictions for Senior Living Trends in 2021

In 2020, COVID-19 slammed many industries, but the hardest hit was definitely senior living.

But 2021 offers leaders in this industry several unique opportunities to turn the corner. An immediate need is to prevent additional infections and make communities safer, in part through effective distribution of vaccines. However, even as senior living executives manage the ongoing crisis, they must build towards the future. The pandemic didn’t create many of the problems that are now being spotlighted as glaring issues in the senior housing world. We are now at a crossroads, a perfect opportunity to renew the mission of senior living.

We predict five trends will be critical to Senior Living in 2021. Will your organization seize the moment or miss the boat?

1 – Digital Transformation

Prediction 1 - Digital Transformation

Our industry has lagged behind most when it comes to technology. This is no longer an option. The COVID crisis showed that assisted living properties, independent living communities, and skilled nursing facilities must have cutting-edge digital systems for three purposes:

  • Peace of Mind – Residents must be able to communicate from their rooms with facility staff and with family members, even amid lockdowns. Not just audio connections, but video links that prove loved ones are OK.
  • Care Delivery – What used to be “way out there” has become normal. Doctors and other health professionals can use videoconferencing and other tools to diagnose and monitor residents. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is not only paying for telehealth – CMS is encouraging it.
  • Connection – COVID taught us that physical distancing cannot become social isolation. When disease outbreaks require residents to remain in their rooms, digital activities must replace in-person gatherings. The alternative is depression, aggravated health conditions and rapid decline.

2 – Onsite Healthcare Delivery – With Partners

Prediction 2 - Onsite Healthcare Delivery - with Partners

Healthcare at many senior living communities has long amounted to a van shuttling residents to the doctor’s office or an ambulance ferrying sick residents to the hospital. But this approach caused fear during COVID, given the risks of contracting the disease in hospital settings.

Residents and families will not stand for such physical outsourcing of care anymore. And there is another way. Healthcare services can be delivered onsite where seniors live.

The key is partnerships. During the pandemic, many senior living organizations forged relationships with local providers, who sent healthcare professionals into assisted living and independent living communities. Those same providers can offer remote, digital care to residents as technology systems improve.

3 – Trust Through Transparency – and Data

Prediction 3 - Trust through transparency - and data

Besides elderly Americans dying by the tens of thousands, another casualty of COVID has been trust in senior living organizations. The industry’s black eye isn’t entirely fair. COVID is most lethal to those over 75 with underlying health conditions, which describes the overwhelming majority of senior living residents. What’s more, the media sometimes lumps together outdated and overwhelmed nursing homes with upscale independent living companies.

Still, leading senior living providers will proactively rebuild confidence among residents, family members and the public. Transparency is key.

Any company with a congregate living setting has to be willing to publish real-time information on such matters as COVID infection rates, and deaths, risk mitigation protocols, employee vaccination practices and staffing policies.

4 – Workplace Culture and Servant Leadership – at the Fore

Prediction 4 - Workplace culture and servant leadership - at the Fore

Too many companies in the industry treat workplace culture as a “soft” “nice to have.” That’s a risky approach today. Data from Activated Insights and Great Place to Work shows that the Best Workplaces in Aging Services have lower turnover rates and better care outcomes.

During the COVID pandemic, reliable staffing and sound care have been more critical then ever. Not only to get sick residents needed treatment, but to avoid instances of neglect that ruin reputations.

A great culture is one where staff members feel pride, experience camaraderie and trust leaders. To cultivate that trust, managers and executives must practice “servant leadership” – seeing yourself not as the “superior” but the kidn of boss who will step in to serve meals and unclog toilets as well as to address the family concerns staff often bring with them to work. Humility is the new superpower.

5 – A New Story for Senior Living – and Society Overall

Prediction 5 - A New Story for Senior Living - and Society Overall

In recent decades, our industry has gravitated to a message focused on caregiving. We’ve lost our aspirational north star – that residents in our communities have much to contribute and can feel deeply alive in their later years. COVID gives us a chance to reframe our value proposition and mission.

The new story for senior living has to be about meaning, human connection and community in addition to care. This means redefining our activity directors as “purpose matchmakers,” breaking down the walls that make our complexes a form of “senior apartheid” and looking for language that moves us away from the “declinist” narrative of old-age.

We can turn outside our industry for help. Even as COVID devastated many of our senior communities, it caused you people to empathize in new ways with their older neighbors. And elders are a vital resources to help America recover from COVID – already, they are serving as tutors to help close education gaps that have widened during the pandemic.

The Five Predictions Infographic

Five Predictions for Senior Living Trends 2021

Click to download as pdf

 

Dr. Jacquelyn Kung is CEO of Activated Insights, the senior care partner of workplace culture authority Great Place to Work. Robert G. Kramer is founder of think tank Nexus Insights and former CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), a resource for data and analytics for the senior housing and care industry. Ed Frauenheim is co-author of several books on workplace culture, including A Great Place to Work for All

Dallas Morning News Senior Living and COVID

Nexus Insights Fellows offer 5-point plan for fixing the post-COVID senior living industry

“COVID-19 gave the senior living industry a black eye.”

That is the opening statement of a provocative op-ed piece in The Dallas Morning News by Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Senior Care Group at Activated Insights and a Nexus Insights Fellow, with Nexus Insights Founder and Fellow Robert G. Kramer and author Ed Frauenheim.

“Few industries have been as wounded by COVID-19 as the senior housing and care sector,” the article claims. It goes on to say, “The statistics are eye-popping. ‘Residents of long-term care facilities constitute less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet 43% of all COVID-19 deaths through June occurred in those places,’ AARP Bulletin reported in December. ‘The number has changed little since.’”

But the op-ed, entitled, “How the senior living industry can heal itself and all of us” provides both hope and a game plan for helping the industry recover.

The authors, all veteran observers of the senior living industry, offer five practical solutions for “repairing and renewing the industry.”

Read the full article here.