senior living crisis management
Property Casualty

Threats Loom Over Senior Living Communities

Harold Kavan
Harold Kavan
Property Casualty

A massive fire rips through a senior living community in Pennsylvania. Four residents perished. Following Hurricane Irma, 12 deaths at a senior living community are ruled homicide. In Illinois, a continuing care retirement community faces a lawsuit after photos of partially nude memory care residents end up online. In California, a resident with dementia elopes from a senior living community and subsequently dies.

You can find article after article about incidents happening all over the country in senior living communities. It’s scary, but just like in the business world, these facilities aren’t immune to crises and they must be prepared to handle them. I want to be clear right off the bat, though. I’m not just talking about coming up with your basic business continuity/disaster recovery plans. I’m referring to a well-rounded crisis communication and reputation management plan.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” If you’ve ever had your best laid plans go awry, you very well know that Murphy’s Law can rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time. Things do have a way of going wrong, and usually will, unless you take steps to prevent them.

I recently read (and it should come as no surprise) that in today’s landscape, it doesn’t take much for an organization to be under siege from consumers, opponents, and the media. In the event of a true crisis or disaster, the communication that surrounds it can either reinforce a good reputation or quickly create a tarnished reputation. How true is that?! I think the analogy Ken M. Shaurette, CISSP, gave a number of years ago still applies: “A disaster is thought of like a heart attack. Disaster management could be thought of as the medicine or exercise program that your doctor has to keep you alive until you can recover from the heart attack. Incident management is all the symptoms that you might [have had] for several months before the heart attack.”

What this all boils down to is that no organization is safe from a crisis, as by its very definition a crisis is any event that threatens your company. This could be the incidents similar to those noted above; Medicare/Medicaid fraud; employee(s) accused of resident abuse; a facility being at fault for the death of a resident; a controversial new acquisition or expansion; employee(s) accused of stealing from a resident(s); a natural disaster; and the list goes on.

So, if you’re in the senior living industry, what do you do? Is your organization prepared to weather the storm? If not, let me offer some crisis management recommendations. It comes in three easy-to-remember terms we’ve developed through our proprietary process called Understanding ART:

  • Avoid
  • Reduce
  • Transfer

Our proprietary sales and service system Understanding Art is what we use at Holmes Murphy in our everyday insurance/risk management arena is similar to what can/should be used in crisis events.

First, you try and Avoid a crisis. How? Be proactive. You cannot predict when a crisis will arise, but with careful planning your organization can be prepared, and may even be able to prevent it. The techniques used for anticipating problems and preventing them is called contingency planning. Get in the habit of asking, “What can go wrong?” and “What else can go wrong?” Once potential problem areas have been identified, prioritize the potential problems areas based on their potential impact, concentrate on the potential problems which could be catastrophic, and work on ways to avoid or resolve them before they occur. Not all situations can be avoided entirely, but knowing how to resolve problems before they get too big, and knowing how to communicate about the issue, may help you handle the situations more easily.

If you can’t avoid a crisis, try and Reduce the exposure. This is where your disaster recovery/business continuity planning comes in. Disaster recovery may be defined as an area of planning that aims to protect an organization from the effects of significant negative events and allows an organization to maintain or quickly resume mission-critical functions following a disaster. Business continuity may be defined as the planning and preparation to ensure that an organization can continue to operate in case of serious incidents or disasters and is able to recover to an operational state within a reasonably short period.

And finally, Transfer what you can’t sustain. What I mean by this is engage professionals who can assist you. This may come in the form of a PR firm, a law firm, forensic accounting, etc.

Preemptive measures can head off major debilitation, including legal ramifications, financial losses, and even simply the tarnishing of a company’s good name. If you need help in determining how to create a plan, please reach out. I’d be happy to discuss all of this with you in much further detail!

Explore more from Holmes Murphy