Peter Stanton, CEO Stanton Communications

Changing the Conversation: How Senior Living Can Counter 2020’s Reputational Damage

Author: Peter Stanton, CEO of Stanton Communications, Inc.

The past year was not kind to the senior living industry. Media from The New York Times to the BBC carried sensational stories of nursing homes in crisis, of more than 100,000 COVID-19 related fatalities in long-term care facilities nationwide, and of the impact on staff, medical professionals and, especially, families who were prevented from visiting loved ones because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the coverage was shocking, it was not always wrong.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that “The pandemic is reshaping the way Americans care for their elderly, prompting family decisions to avoid nursing homes and keep loved ones in their own homes for rehabilitation and other care.”

This all adds up to a reputational black eye leaving many in the senior living profession wondering if a path exists for the repair of the industry’s image and the rebuilding of a more favorable perspective for individual communities and companies. The answer is a resounding “yes,” but hard work and a unified effort is required.

A change in posture with respect to media engagement may also be required. One senior living executive recently described granting more than 14 media interviews during the height of the pandemic, none of which, in his view, turned out well. He reported not a single resulting story was fair or even correct. His willingness to engage is now fully exhausted.

A pervasive sense of communication reticence and caution may be understandable in light of such experiences. That reluctance to engage, however, is entirely contrary to the goal of restoring the foundation of trust on which the senior living industry depends in order to recover from the reputational hit of the past year. Instead, a comprehensive approach is needed that involves the industry’s leading organizations, senior living companies, and even the grassroots of families, care givers and administrators. Four core elements to a reputational campaign must be adopted:

Tell the Truth

The impact of the pandemic on nursing home residents was devastating. COVID-19 cases among residents were numerous and deadly. This necessitated significant changes in methods of operation, safety protocols, and service delivery. Many of those changes produced positive results and provide valuable lessons for the future. Communicators in the industry must be willing to talk about the impacts, but balance that dimension of the story with lessons learned that make senior facilities today far safer than perhaps they have ever been. Discussing improvements, sharing insights, and showcasing new standards are essential first steps toward rebuilding trust.

Tell the Positive Story

Seniors receive a level of care in nursing homes that is nearly impossible to replicate if they are living at home. In senior living communities, residents are enjoying an active, social and engaged lifestyle essential to good physical, mental and emotional health. Now is not the time for the industry or companies to go silent, but instead the time to showcase programs for senior wellness and socialization. Further, with seniors at the head of the line for vaccines, more opportunities exist to demonstrate all the industry is doing to improve the health and vitality of residents. And while The Wall Street Journal talks about the increasing percentage of seniors being kept at home, the industry must counter with news of enhanced service and the toll that home care imposes on families, budgets and seniors now isolated from peers.

Put Residents & Families Forward

While the industry’s credibility may be injured, residents and families have the capacity to serve as advocates. No one knows better the fear that prevailed, but also the care that was provided throughout the pandemic. As vaccines allow patients to turn the corner to a more hopeful future, providing ways for them to tell their stories on web sites and social platforms can be a powerful rebuttal to pervasive negative perspectives. Few can speak with more authority or respect than those who lived through the experience and maintained trust in their care givers and communities.

Be Proactive & Relentless

An industry op-ed in response to The Wall Street Journal is sorely needed, but even more important is a consistent and ongoing initiative of outreach and engagement with the media, with families and with care givers. Such outreach must be multi-dimensional consisting not only of a fully engaged media effort, but opportunities for dialogue on social platforms, delivery of data and updates on system enhancements, and creation of content in a variety of forms from video to graphical to written. Such a diversified campaign must be sustained, measured and refined as it unfolds. Coordinated messages about the value and validity of nursing homes for seniors needing round the clock care and of senior living communities for those seeking a means for staying connected to family and neighbors have never been more important or necessary.

The reputational impacts of the pandemic on the senior living industry have been dramatic, but they are not permanent if a concerted and consistent effort is undertaken to change the change the narrative, counter the negative, and maintain communications well into the future.

Spring Hills Launches End-to-End Cardiac Program to Help Patients Transition from Hospital to Home

EDISON, N.J.–Spring Hills today announced that it has launched a new comprehensive cardiac program at three of its post-acute care facilities in New Jersey. Currently accepting patients in Livingston, Wayne and Woodbury, the program features a multidisciplinary medical team that delivers end-to-end cardiac care and innovative care delivery to ensure seamless transitions from hospital to home. The program also offers an alternative to acute hospital settings for those patients with cardiac disease who experience acute exacerbations of their conditions while at home.

“Safely transitioning patients from the hospital to home is one of the greatest challenges in health care today,” says Alex Markowits, Founder and President/CEO of Spring Hills. “We’ve seen the dynamic play out for our residents too many times: the step-down care was insufficient; the discharge plans were confusing; and families were overwhelmed by the complexity of the system and caring for very sick, high-risk loved ones. We also saw how expensive and frustrating it was for physicians, health systems and plans. So, Spring Hills decided to create a better, more cohesive model, beginning with cardiac care.”

Combining 20 years of post-acute and long-term care experience with the expertise of clinicians, heart specialists, and population health management and data analytic experts, the Spring Hills Cardiac Program represents the first in the company’s plans to develop clinical programs that treat specific health conditions and provide population health care. These programs will further integrate the existing Spring Hills communities, including post-acute, assisted living, memory care and home care services, and offer residents and patients uniquely comprehensive health care and services.

In addition to the clinical infrastructure and technologies to provide high-acuity care, the program’s nurse practitioners have specialized cardiac training. Every patient who enters the Cardiac Program has a baseline set, risk assessment, and medications reconciled upon entry. Patients are seen by a consulting cardiologist once a week, and an attending physician, who leads the patient’s multidisciplinary medical team, twice a week. This team, which includes Spring Hills Population Health associates, maintains regular communication with patients’ cardiologists and physicians throughout their stay and once they return home, to protect against compromising gaps in care.

“By increasing the frequency and depth of clinical care and monitoring, we decrease the length of stay and reduce the risk of post-discharge complications, hospital readmissions and ER visits,” said Dr. Andrew Pecora, who designed the Spring Hills Cardiac Program.

Spring Hills is the first program in New Jersey to use non-invasive hemodynamic technology for cardiac monitoring in a post-acute setting. “This technology provides on-site clinicians immediate, actionable data points that typically only a hospital can provide,” Dr. Pecora explains. “For example, we now can detect sepsis 32 hours earlier than by a blood test, and with advance-identification of silent conditions, we can prevent certain cardiac events altogether. This saves lives. And with the sickest 10% of Americans accounting for 80% of health care spend, it also saves money.”

Spring Hills Population Health, fully integrated into all medical care teams, establishes relationships with the patient and family at the hospital to facilitate a smooth transition to the Spring Hills cardiac unit. This relationship is ongoing, to ensure that patients and families are supported both during their stay and for 90 days after discharge from the cardiac unit. This includes coordination of care, intense engagement with the patient and caregiver through personalized communication channels, follow up doctor appointments, home visits, remote monitoring, and addressing and removing social and financial barriers to access to care. The average hospital readmission rate after 90 days is 23-27%. Spring Hills’ rate is less than 10%.

“Patients are more likely to follow their recovery plan if they feel genuinely cared for, and accountable to, a caregiver,” says Monica Wallace, Vice President of Nursing and Clinical Programs at Spring Hills. “We build trust with the patient and family. This not only increases their confidence and commitment to improving their health, but it also increases the likelihood that a patient will reach out to us for help before a concern becomes a real problem.”

While currently focused on building these three programs in New Jersey, Spring Hills intends to scale the cardiac program to support collaboration with additional partners as opportunities emerge. Spring Hills operates 28 communities in 7 states.

Markowits shares the story behind the Spring Hills Cardiac Program on his blog.
To partner with Spring Hills or refer a patient to the Cardiac Program, please contact

About Spring Hills:

Spring Hills Post-Acute Care, Assisted Living, and Memory Care communities and Home Care services provide comprehensive support for seniors and those with chronic health needs. All communities have a personal and distinctive approach and ensure the highest standards for proactive health care and quality of living, at every stage of a resident’s life.

Led by Alexander Markowits, Founder and President/CEO, Spring Hills is committed to providing seamless care experiences that meet the unique needs and preferences of residents, patients, and their families. Spring Hills has 28 facilities across seven states: Post-Acute Care in NJ; Assisted Living and Home Care in NJ, VA, OH, FL and NV; and Memory Care in TX, VA, NV and FL. For more information, visit or

Atria Senior Living Gives Update on COVID-19 Efforts

LOUISVILLE, Ky.,– Atria Senior Living, a leading operator of senior living communities across the United States and Canada, reports strong progress in protecting its communities from multiple “waves” of COVID-19 with the help of aggressive infectious disease control measures under its “Stay Safe, Stay Together™” health and safety initiative. Atria’s health and safety practices have also put the company in a solid position to combat lingering and future potential disease activity in North America.

Beginning in early March, Atria quickly implemented escalating infectious disease protocols and other extensive measures throughout its communities in the U.S. and Canada to help protect residents from COVID-19. Believing that seniors need daily social interaction, the company applied its protocols under the mantra of “Stay Safe, Stay Together.” The campaign covers a vast array of efforts to keep seniors and staff informed and vigilant on safety practices ranging from social distancing to hand sanitization to personal protective equipment (PPE) and engagement programs.

Through the company’s intense use of data to track disease dynamics, Atria was able to forecast early that the most dramatic and perilous impact of COVID-19 would be in the New York City Metro area, where Atria is the largest provider of senior assisted living. Atria addressed this “first wave” of the disease not only with aggressive protocols on PPE and quarantine, but also proactive testing of staff and third-party support, which helped seal off communities from positive-testing employees. Before any state-mandated testing, Atria developed a collaboration with Mayo Clinic Laboratories to obtain the testing capability for all of its 14,000-strong employee base in its U.S. communities, and by May 12 had completed its first full round of nationwide testing. Data from the testing indicates it was a proven weapon in protecting Atria communities from the disease. Atria also equipped its entire New York workforce with enough masks to not only wear at work and on their commutes, but also enough for their family members, which helped reduce exposure to Atria communities.

By late March, Atria had placed all of its communities in the U.S. and Canada under full quarantine protocol. With restrictions prohibiting visitors, Atria’s Stay Safe, Stay Together efforts became critically important. Through the company’s Engage Life® events program, residents enjoyed meaningful daily experiences for continual learning, fitness, connection, personal growth and fulfillment, and programs adapted for safety. The company also accelerated development and deployment of a resident well-being app to communicate resident COVID-19 symptom tracking and important announcements in real time.

As the disease waned in the Northeast, a second “wave” of disease activity – substantial, but still much less severe than the New York outbreak in the spring – began across Atria markets in the South and West, including Arizona, California, Texas, Florida and Georgia. The company continues to use its in-house data capabilities to track disease dynamics and to combat COVID-19 with aggressive and proactive testing. To date, more than 100,000 tests have been performed with Atria residents and staff across the company.

“We believe that, collaborating with Mayo Clinic Laboratories and working with state and local agencies, testing has been one of our greatest weapons in fighting COVID-19,” said Atria Chairman and CEO John Moore. “We always want our residents in a position to live their best lives in any circumstance. We still have a wary eye on COVID, and we’re not claiming to have figured everything out yet with this disease. However, we do feel good enough about our experience-tested pandemic procedures that we ‘pity the flu’ that tries to rear its head this fall and winter.”

By July, all Atria communities had sufficiently passed disease activity progress thresholds to emerge from full quarantine. As of this month, the company is in a “COVID-19 Watch” phase, which allows for greater use of community amenities but with safety triggers in place to escalate protocols again if needed.

“The disease clearly hasn’t left the country, but we’re at a point where we can thoughtfully and safely pursue our ‘dual imperatives’ of keeping our residents safe while also helping them live their best lives now. We’re very proud of everyone, including our residents and their families, our frontline employees, our community management teams, our Support Center staff, and our state and local health officials, who continue to work with us through the COVID-19 environment,” Moore said. “With our ‘Stay Safe, Stay Together’ philosophy at the forefront, we believe seniors can live their best lives both now and into the future.”

For more information, including data analysis, visit our site.

Stay Safe, Stay Together™ is a trademark of Atria Senior Living, Inc.

About Atria Senior Living

Atria Senior Living is a leading operator of independent living, assisted living, supportive living and memory care communities in more than 200 locations in 26 states and seven Canadian provinces. Atria is the residence of choice for more than 20,000 older people, and the workplace of choice for more than 14,000 employees. The company creates vibrant communities where older adults can thrive and participate, know that their contributions are valued, and enjoy access to opportunities and support that help them keep making a positive difference in the world. For more information about Atria, visit or follow the company on Facebook. For career opportunities and more information about working for Atria, visit

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