Crisis management 101

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

It's the news no senior living administrator wants to receive: One of your community's residents appears to have been abused, and one of your employees appears to have been the culprit.

That's the position in which The Glenn Hopkins Campus Administrator Lori McGuire found herself in earlier this month, when the daughter of a resident with dementia reportedly saw unexplained bruising on her mother, hid a camera in her mother's room, recorded at least three separate incidents of abuse and then shared the findings with the community and the local police in Hopkins, MN.

According to a police report obtained by McKnight's Senior Living, the video showed Cecilia Chebii Soi, a 55-year-old certified nursing assistant, striking the woman in the head and back with her hand, elbow and a hair brush and also pulling the resident up from the floor by her hair. She was charged with two counts of assault on Feb. 7 and is scheduled to be arraigned on March 14.

When faced with such events, any administrator might be tempted to hide. But McGuire sprung into action to reassure residents and family members and to make sure that such incidents don't happen in the community in the future. Her Feb. 12 letter to them, shared with McKnight's Senior Living, outlined the steps the community had taken:

  • Apologized to the resident and family.
  • Cooperated with police.
  • Reported the incident to the Minnesota Department of Health.
  • Fired Soi and permanently banned her from the campus.
  • Interviewed and assessed each resident in the memory care area of the assisted living section where the affected resident lives, to ensure that no concerns exist about mistreatment or standards of care.
  • Began meeting with each healthcare staff member to reinforce procedures for identifying and reporting any suspected maltreatment of vulnerable adults.
  • Began a review of internal hiring, training and supervisory practices to look for ways to improve processes and resident care.
  • Continued to work with the resident and her family to ensure that appropriate monitoring and care is being provided.

Let's face it: No senior living community is immune to potential public relations nightmares. How a community and its leadership handle such events can set the community apart from others — in a good way — and be crucial to the community's future livelihood.

By being proactive, transparent and open about the community's response — with residents, family members and members of the media — and by inviting residents and family members to contact her directly with concerns, McGuire positioned herself and the community as having a firm grasp on the situation and on best-practice solutions. If The Glenn Hopkins follows through on what it learns from this experience, then the community — and residents and their families — will benefit from the approach. Because McGuire willingly shared her letter with McKnight's Senior Living, senior living communities nationwide have a blueprint for how to manage similar circumstances.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Contact her at lois.bowers@mcknights.com. Follow her on Twitter @Lois_Bowers.

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