Senior living providers have gotten their fair share of media coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many stories have focused on the challenges group care settings have faced while preventing and mitigating coronavirus infections, data from Sensight Surveys show that many senior living communities across the United States and Canada are perceived to have done an excellent job keeping residents safe during the pandemic.

According to surveys collected from 21,572 residents and families between July and November 2020:

  • 95% of residents and family members agree that their community has taken important measures to keep residents safe during COVID-19.
  • 94% of residents and family members agree that staff members at their community care about resident safety and well-being.
  • 90% of residents and family members agree that company leadership has made the right decisions to manage through COVID-19.
  • 86% of residents and family members agree that communication from their community during COVID-19 has been informative and timely.

Survey respondents represent 453 senior living communities in 30 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

Comments made on the survey by residents and their family members provide a mix of accolades and concerns, ranging from gratitude about the extraordinary measures that staff members have taken to keep residents safe and connected to their loved ones, to grievances about interruptions to normal daily life.

In the words of a family member of a memory care resident: “The executive director and her staff have done an outstanding job! The care and concern they have shown to residents, as well as family members, is very much appreciated. This has been a difficult time for all, and everyone has given their time and attention to our loved ones many times at the expense of their own. We are very grateful.”

Concerns listed on the survey primarily focus on restricted opportunities to socialize with other residents, visit with family and move freely inside and outside the community. Although these types of comments highlight the emotional toll the pandemic has imposed on residents and their family members, most remarks were accompanied by appreciation for community staff and the steps they have taken to keep residents safe and healthy.

“They have taken every precaution they can to keep us safe and well during this time,” said one resident. “I am glad that I am in a place that cares about us. The staff here has been very good to us, even though at times I thought it was a little too much, but I knew they were only looking after our safety and well-being.”

With vaccines from multiple pharmaceutical companies now granted emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and administration of the vaccine underway for healthcare workers and long-term care residents, it appears that a return to normal is in sight.

Senior living operators will return to that new normal with the insights from this survey as well as information gleaned about their individual communities.

“Our mission at Grace Management is all about people, and that mission has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Patty Luessenhop, senior vice president of operations.

Residents, associates and family members have demonstrated an “incredible commitment” to one another, she added. That is reflected in the minimal impact of COVID-19 on Grace communities as well as the positive results and feedback from the survey, Luessenhop said.

Jason Kohler, CEO of Tapestry Senior Housing Management, said he was pleased to see that, on average, 98% of the respondents providing feedback about Tapestry agreed or strongly agreed that the company had taken important measures to keep residents safe from the coronavirus. “While we believe that Tapestry has done a great job in keeping our residents and associates safe, it was wonderful to get confirmation that our residents and families feel the same,” he said.

“Cultures are built over time and tested in crisis,” says Vlad Volodarski, CEO of Toronto-based Chartwell Retirement Residences. Sensight surveys of residents, families and employees conducted in 2020, he says, “confirmed that our culture is not only strong enough to sustain in this crisis but is even stronger because of it.”

Lynn Ackerman, Ph.D., is co-founder and chief customer officer at Sensight Surveys LLC.