‘We’re safe at home’

When the pandemic struck, Erickson Living took swift action to keep residents and employees safe

Created date

May 4th, 2020
A collage of 13 photos shows Erickson Living residents, from across the enterprise, holding up signs, which together read "We are all in this together so please stay home and help us stop the spread."

A collage of 13 photos shows Erickson Living residents, from across the enterprise, holding up signs, which together read "We are all in this together so please stay home and help us stop the spread."

The rapid onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic took many by surprise. Cities, states, even countries had to take drastic measures to slow the spread of the virus. 

Without a vaccine or an effective treatment, the only weapon we have against the disease is distance and behavior modification. As events of the past few months have shown, places that acted quickly and decisively had the best chances of minimizing the spread.

Because Erickson Living has long-established plans and protocols for how to manage when emergencies strike, the company was ahead of the curve in its efforts to protect the health, safety, and well-being of its nearly 27,000 residents and 14,000 staff members.  

Before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S., Erickson Living enacted its emergency preparedness plan and assembled a task force to respond to the evolving situation. 

“Timing is critical in these types of situations because the senior population is acutely vulnerable to the impact of this global pandemic,” says Alan Butler, CEO of Erickson Living. “For Erickson Living, it’s all about ensuring the safety and security of our residents and staff in this challenging time.”

All Erickson Living-managed communities were closed to nonessential visitors, and nonessential staff members were directed to work from home. 

Those who work on campus were required to undergo a thorough screening process—with both questions and a temperature check—before entering the community. 

Delivering 25,000 meals per day

On March 20, all on-site restaurants were closed, and the company immediately switched to a full, in-home meal delivery program. 

It was a mammoth undertaking. Overnight, culinary teams around the country had to design new menus and implement new strategies to safely deliver breakfast and lunch items, snacks, and full dinners directly to community members’ apartments. 

That comes out to about 25,000 meals a day across all 19 communities in 11 states. And at each point, from the restaurant kitchen to the apartment door, the process was thought-out and designed to minimize any risk of exposure to the virus.

A team of 15-20 dining staff at each community prepared hundreds of meals each day. The food was sealed in containers, and another team of about 25-30 employees packed hundreds of meals and hand-delivered them to the shelves outside every apartment home. Each dinner included soup, salad, an entrée with two sides, dessert, and beverage—similar to what residents are accustomed to at the various dining venues on campus.

When Easter and Passover rolled around, dining teams went the extra mile by preparing special meals so community members could celebrate the holidays with traditional foods.

Each community also implemented a new concierge service to deliver household items like toilet paper, travel-size shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and single-serve coffee and tea. The service also included delivery of the daily mail and newspapers as well as other requested items.

“For us, the concierge service was a game changer,” says Judy Janis, who lives with her husband Gary at Oak Crest, an Erickson Living-managed community in Maryland. “Because really the only reason we would leave the apartment or the campus would be to go out to get those items. We haven’t left the campus because we haven’t had to, which I think is really a good thing for all of us.”

Connected and engaged

Under normal circumstances, Erickson Living-managed communities are teeming with activity and social interaction. It’s one of the things that residents say they love most about Erickson Living, but the need to follow the stay-at-home directive requires the communities to find new and creative ways to stay connected. 

Fitness classes like yoga, Pilates, and Zumba were broadcast over each community’s in-house television channel. The channel also broadcast faith services and educational lectures.

“[Our in-house TV channel] has been airing two fitness programs each day as well as daily devotionals and performances by entertainers,” says Grace Nied, who lives at Highland Springs, an Erickson Living-managed community in Texas. “I feel so fortunate to live here. The staff is doing all they can to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the community.”

As for social interaction, community TV channels produced shows featuring live call-in trivia contests, resident talent contests, and bingo games for prizes that were delivered right to their doors.

Using apps like Zoom, residents “mingled” at communitywide virtual happy hours.

And taking a cue from citizens around the world who were social distancing, residents were invited to go out on their balconies to join their community in sing-alongs.  

Smaller, more impromptu exchanges also blossomed. For example, tech-savvy community members began tutoring their neighbors over the phone or through video chats, showing them how to use the latest communications technology to make staying in touch with friends and loved ones stress-free.

Caring at the highest level

While nothing beats going back to normal, there is no question that the quick and decisive actions taken by Erickson Living to keep their residents thriving and engaged, while also safeguarding everyone’s health, have made the most of an unprecedented situation.  

As for residents and their families, they recognize that all the new rules and procedures were adopted with the health and safety of everyone in mind. 

“The dedication of our health care teams has been nothing short of extraordinary,” says Erickson Living Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Narrett. “Their commitment and tireless efforts to implementing prevention protocols and CDC recommendations has made a very real differencce in limiting spread of the virus.”

Over the last several weeks, residents have expressed gratitude and support in a myriad of ways: from going out on their balconies to applaud the dedicated staff to sending heartfelt letters and even posting signs of support on their doors and on social media.   

As a sign on one resident’s door says, “We aren’t stuck at home. We’re safe at home!”