Phil Jean serves as the executive director of Seabrook, an Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. Phil recently shared what the Seabrook team has been doing to keep residents safe and connected during the COVID-19 situation.
Q: The COVID-19 crisis must be one of your biggest fears as executive director of a retirement community. How did it feel to watch the situation unfold, and how were you and your team able to respond so well, so quickly? Was there anything already in place that allowed Seabrook to take swift action and keep as many residents safe as possible?
Phil Jean: Over the past few months, our community, society, and the entire nation has changed in so many indescribable ways related to coronavirus. The humanitarian impact is far-reaching and the economic implications are not yet fully understood, but one thing is for sure: our world has forever changed. As an organization and a community, however, we are committed to persevering and ensuring that we weather the storm together, despite the obstacles and challenges that lie ahead.
While hard to believe, COVID-19 became a reality for us back in February, at least in terms of the impact to us as a nation, community, and a people. When I reflect back, it's hard to believe all that has changed, and we often wonder what the future will look like as we continue to recover.
That said, the one thing that continues to inspire me is the resiliency and support of both residents and staff. Things at this time are clearly not "business as usual" in any sense of the word. We are all responding to and coping with, in different ways, a new norm, which has no boundaries or timelines.
As soon as the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S., Seabrook and Erickson Living activated our emergency preparedness plan and began deploying significant resources to plan, prepare, and respond. We also created a dedicated website (ericksonliving.com/covid19) that community members and the public can visit for the most up-to-date facts and information.
I am particularly proud that Seabrook has a dedicated on-site medical center and employee health and wellness center staffed by full-time physicians and health professionals. This allows us to carefully monitor the health of community members and staff members and promptly respond to any concerns.
Q: What have been your top priorities in the response to the coronavirus pandemic?
Jean: Our top priority is providing a safe and healthy environment for Seabrook residents and employees, including, among other things, enhanced gatehouse and safety screening procedures.
We also wanted to make sure that we were providing our residents with supportive programs and services during New Jersey's stay-at-home order, such as our full-service concierge program, which includes package and mail delivery, and dog walking services, in addition to an in-home dining program, a variety of Seabrook TV programs and fitness classes, and medical care.
Most importantly, throughout the crisis, Seabrook staff and management have remained in constant communication with all community members. Daily updates and information are shared on our community TV station and the My Erickson app, in addition to letters delivered to residents' apartment homes.
Q: How have you seen residents come together and support each other throughout the shelter-in-place directive?
Jean: Residents have been coming together and supporting each other in so many ways. They are socializing through virtual happy hours, book clubs, sing-alongs, Zoom meet-ups, as well as calling each other to check in.
Our community TV station has been keeping residents connected through interactive call-in shows, virtual resident town halls, and live quiz shows. The community TV station has produced numerous photo and video messages from staff to residents, including a "We Miss You" video broadcasted on our in-house TV channel.
Another very special event happened in May when residents came together in the afternoon to give a round of applause to our dedicated employees from their balconies and open windows during our "We Clap Because We Care" event.
Q: What has impressed you most about your staff throughout the crisis?
Jean: Our employees are true heroes! It amazing to see how, in every department, from general services to dining, resident life to finance, sales to health care, marketing and communications to human resources and beyond, our teams are committed to each other and our residents.
The appreciation, inspiration, and caring we all feel is astonishing. Our dedicated staff is working tirelessly to ensure that residents are able to feel comfortable and safe and that they are being well cared for and can feel confident we are vigilant in our efforts to be of service and anticipate their needs during this pandemic.
Over the coming weeks, we'll be pausing to highlight some of the amazing ways different departments around the community are contributing to the health and happiness of each other and our residents.
Q: What has impressed you most about the residents?
Jean: Residents have been our partners in this fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. They have been making sacrifices to keep their neighbors and our employees safe by staying at home, and we are very grateful.
We continue to be inspired by messages of gratitude and acts of kindness shown to our employees during this time by members of our community. The hundreds of calls, emails, and letters received from residents has been heartwarming and underscores how the staff continues to live the Erickson mission and values.
To learn more about Seabrook's commitment to senior health and wellness, please visit our website at SeabrookCommunity.com.
About Seabrook: Seabrook, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 98-acre campus in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,400 residents and 750 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Seabrook can be found at SeabrookCommunity.com.
Photo: Seabrook Executive Director Phil Jean praises both community members and employees during the coronavirus pandemic.