How One Nonprofit Uses Tech to Protect Aging Residents During COVID
By: Nicholas Olear, Executive Director, Seabury Charitable Foundation and Community Engagement; Renaud Le Pape, IT Director
Our vision at Seabury is to revolutionize the experience of aging. Established in 1992, our Bloomfield-based nonprofit organization supports the physical, spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual needs of more than 400 older adults through a combination of high-quality housing and onsite programming, community-based services, and affordable, long-term health care.
Providing the highest quality of life for people aged 50 and older, so they can live with dignity and joy, is central to our mission. When COVID-19 emerged as a threat to the health and wellbeing of our community, especially the older adults we serve, we moved quickly to minimize the risk of employees spreading the disease to their co-workers and residents.
Manage the Flow of People (and Things)
A crucial first step was identifying the times and places where employees were most likely to come into contact with the 400 residents of our independent living apartments and assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities. We then reconfigured physical spaces to provide plenty of room for social distancing and make it easier to guide foot traffic.
For example, we closed all but one entrance to the campus, creating a single point of entry and exit, where employees scan their badges and pass through a mandatory screening checkpoint. This ensures every employee gets screened for COVID-19 symptoms before coming onsite. However, we know that people aren’t the only potential carriers of COVID-19.
We also set up a strict decontamination process for incoming mail and deliveries. We obtained several air scrubbers, which we placed selectively across campus. One such strategic area was our mechanical room, which became our central holding space for incoming mail and packages. Now, all mail and shipments are held for at least 24 hours to decontaminate in the mechanical room, minimizing another potential avenue of transmission.
Adapt Without Compromising Mission
We’ve taken extraordinary precautions, such as disallowing visitors and adjusting our campus road to one-way traffic for easier vehicle screening, to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. These measures were the right thing to do because the health of employees and residents is our top priority. However, it was also vitally important to maintain the highest quality of life for our residents, especially during these tough times. So, we got creative with digital devices to help residents maintain important human connections.
In our assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care units, we deployed tablets and trained staff to help residents contact their loved ones through Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. The devices are also used for residents to have telehealth appointments with specialists and other offsite health care providers.
Residents in our independent living apartments keep fit by exercising along with fitness videos starring our very own wellness staff, which we broadcast through our in-house TV channel. We have recently begun holding outdoor fitness classes–with appropriate social distancing rules, of course!
In addition to deploying technology in new ways, we’ve also overhauled key operations to maintain a high level of service. For example, we completely redesigned the resident dining experience. Now, our Culinary team picks up pre-order menu cards from each resident’s apartment and then returns with a delicious, healthy meal, enabling staff and residents to maintain social distancing.
Halt the Spread of Disease
Screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the campus is central to our health and safety strategy. However, this is an imperfect practice. It can take three or more days after a person becomes infected for symptoms to appear. Many will never show symptoms, but can still spread the disease. While we do test employees regularly, a week or more can pass before test results are available, making it nearly impossible to prevent every potentially-infected employee from coming onsite.
Given the nature of COVID-19, it was critical for us to implement a contact tracing program to quickly identify individuals who may have been exposed to the disease and advise them to self-quarantine. Speed is an important factor because the faster we’re able to notify individuals of possible exposure, the more effective we’ll be in preventing COVID-19 from spreading in our facilities. Therefore, we needed a scalable, efficient way to trace all possible interactions in the days or even weeks prior to an employee’s diagnosis.
Take Contact Tracing Digital
We were already housing some employee data in Salesforce, but needed help building a contact tracing solution on the platform. Through the Pro Bono program, we were connected with two Salesforce employees who volunteered to help us build exactly what we needed.
With the support of our pro bono volunteers, we’re now using Salesforce to visualize potential interactions between infected employees and co-workers who worked on the same days in the same departments. The tool makes it easy for our clinical team to quickly notify employees and residents who may have been exposed and advise them to self-quarantine.
To date, we’ve notified 330 employees and residents of potential exposure. Resident Daphne Wilcox recently expressed her appreciation to staff for keeping her community safe. “Thank you for your recent communication and transparency! I have every confidence that all is being done, that can be done, to protect us all. We will get to the other side!”
Get Pro Bono Support
Salesforce employees get 56 hours of paid time off to volunteer every year. Through the Pro Bono Program, you can request pro bono assistance from a Salesforce employee. Submit a short application to get started.
About the Authors
Nicholas Olear oversees program development of all off-campus outreach services, Seabury At Home, and Seabury Care Now, private duty Homemaker Companion agency, and the Charitable Foundation’s growth.
Renaud Le Pape is the IT Director for Seabury.
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