Guest Editorial Week Of 12/20/2021

Michelle Vernon, Executive Director at Genoa Retirement Village

Nursing home industry has faced many challenges in past year
For many years, assisted living facilities and nursing homes have operated quietly, providing a safe place for seniors and elderly family members to transition to a place where they can receive day-to-day, around- the- clock care.
We have proudly provided this option to individuals and families who face difficult choices regarding loved ones who can no longer live independently, and may require constant medical care that no family member or caregiver could ever provide, no matter how hard they try.
But in the past year, senior care facilities have found ourselves in an unexpected place: in the headlines. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, worker shortages and vaccine mandates, we have faced new, unprecedented challenges. And we continue to face them head-on. Our steadfast belief in safety for our residents and employees serves as a reliable compass in making tough decisions.

Covid-19 pandemic
The pandemic’s impact on residential care cannot be underestimated. Like many other facilities, we implemented lockdowns, quarantines, campus safety zones, screenings, restrictions and took additional safety measures on our own for one reason only: to protect those in our care as well as the very people who care for them. Yes, we made hard choices – but when we looked at the numbers and assessed the risks, we knew we had to protect those who rely on us every day to provide care and to protect them.

Worker shortages
Another ramification of the pandemic was the job market. The numbers are mind boggling: the national unemployment rate hovers at 4.8 percent, with 10.1 million job openings. Still, many
businesses continue to struggle to find workers.
The past 18 months have laid bare a job market that has shifted dramatically, creating opportunities for some, but challenges for others. Unfortunately, those of us who work and operate within senior care facilities are facing the daunting task of finding workers to fill critical spots in our facilities. So we got creative, and ramped up recruitment efforts.
By providing such benefits as automatic quarterly wage increases, a tuition reimbursement program and scheduling flexibility – we are investing in our employees and in turn, our own future as an organization. We also took a close look at the industry and created progressive compensation packages that rank above our competitors, making an $8 million investment in our employees. Then we also sought additional input – from our employees. That’s how we created an appealing benefits package that offers what they have identified as important to them in their vocations or careers. We were recently named among the Best Places to Work in America by Glassdoor as well as Fortune.
Our own employees talk about a great workplace, but it’s really just the way we do business. It’s a philosophy that works – culture and investment in people wins the day. Every day.

Vaccine mandate
We were one of the first to implement a vaccine mandate (prior to industry/government requirements) as a condition of employment. While we realize there are differing voices and opinions on this topic, we feel strongly that this is the best course of action in providing the safest environment possible for our residents and employees. While we do make accommodations for medical or religious reasons (but must undergo regular Covid testing), all employees must be vaccinated.
In addition, we provide Covid vaccines at our campuses and were among the very first in our industry to publish our campus Covid-19 statistics on our web site. As another step of full transparency and information, we also publish our full response to the Covid-19 pandemic on our web site.
It is imperative that we create the safest environment possible for our residents and employees, because families rely on us to care for their loved ones in a setting where they have the opportunity to interact with others, including visitors so to reduce and diminish isolation and loneliness. We will always take that responsibility seriously, because it’s the right thing to do.


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