When a man's family placed a hidden camera in his senior living residence, it came as a startling surprise to the provider. While the company has a policy against surreptitiously videotaping employees, management could not ignore what the recording revealed.
Staff members were visibly belligerent, both verbally and physically, with the resident. The conduct did not appear to cross the line into abuse, or be illegal, but it was not professional or in line with the provider's training or standards. The family threatened to take the video to local television stations if the provider did not respond with immediate and reasonable action.
The provider took swift disciplinary action with the employees, it retooled its training to ensure this type of incident would not happen again, and it communicated its commitment to residents and families to keep an open dialogue and always strive to provide the highest quality of care with a willingness to recognize shortcomings and embrace improvements.
This incident is just one of many scenarios senior living communities face on a daily basis. A stellar reputation takes years to build but can be lost in an instant. It is essential that providers prepare well in advance for unexpected incidents. Action items should include the following:
- Develop an operations and communications plan in advance. There is no time in the midst of a crisis to develop a blueprint for handling the situation.
- Gather information quickly during the crisis and stick to the facts. Assess what happened without making assumptions.
- Focus on the proactive actions being taken to resolve the problem. Keep the messaging clear and consistent.
- In advance, develop press release templates, senior living community fact sheets and potential media questions and answers.
- Conduct regular training, run mock drills and define clear roles personnel should fill during a crisis.
- Know that having the right person at the microphone can be almost as important as the message itself. Media training is a valuable exercise.
Today's world moves on a 24-hour news cycle. Having an advance plan, vetting that plan thoroughly and sticking to the plan will provide substantial reputational dividends in the long run. It is always important to do the right thing when facing a crisis. Effectively communicating actions taken to key stakeholders — including residents, families, personnel, partners and potential future residents — builds credibility and defines reputation in the marketplace.
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