Long before a major winter storm hit the East Coast early Thursday, skilled nursing providers across the region had a plan — with an assist from solid teamwork.
The so-called “bomb cyclone” hit close to home for Dan Reingold, president and CEO of New York City-based skilled nursing and rehabilitation provider RiverSpring Health, who spent part of his day on Thursday helping to dig an employee’s car out of the snow.
“People really band together [during emergencies],” Reingold told SNN.
At Hebrew Home of Riverdale, a campus operated by RiverSpring Health in The Bronx, there’s a system in place to help employees get to work during inclement weather.
“Unfortunately, our campus is not close to the subway. We’re about two miles from it,” Reingold said. “What we’ve done is we’ve set up a variety of travel assistance arrangements, including an all-wheel-drive van, which goes to the subway and will pick people up if they’re willing to come in.”
Hebrew Home leadership also asks staff to volunteer for additional shifts, if they’re able.
“Obviously, they make overtime, which is nice,” Reingold said.
If it’s unsafe for staff to travel back to their homes, RiverSpring arranges overnight accommodations, and provides food from its cafeteria free of charge.
The hype leading up to Thursday’s “bomb cyclone” was “crazy,” Lynne Katzmann, founder and president of senior and assisted living provider Juniper Communities, told Skilled Nursing News. Still, leadership at the Bloomfield, N.J.-based senior housing provider felt adequately prepared to face the storm, especially given their history of dealing with similarly challenging weather events.
“After [Hurricane] Sandy, we put every system in place,” Katzmann explained. “We always have food and we always have generators either on-site, or we can have whole-building generators brought in within a two-hour request.”
Communities run by Juniper follow a similar protocol as RiverSpring when workers find themselves snowed in.
“We will bring in people, and if for some reason people get stuck, we put them up and have a slumber party,” Katzmann said. “It’s what we do. We know how to do it. Are people always happy about it? Not always—but we say ‘Bring your dog, bring your family.’”
The storm was one of the first major tests of SNF preparedness after new rules regarding emergency plans took effect last November. And in times like these, it’s critical that communities’ emergency preparedness plans are well-rounded, and that they include protocols to follow even after a weather event has effectively ended, Janine Finck-Boyle, vice president of regulatory affairs at Washington, D.C.-based LeadingAge, told SNN.
Though weather emergencies undoubtedly create challenges for skilled nursing and senior housing providers, they also, when handled appropriately, reinforce all of the good that they do.
“People like to come down on nursing homes. They’re not America’s favorite institution,” Reingold said. “But in a time like this, all residents are safe, they’re getting good food, the heat works. It’s just a reminder that long-term care and senior housing are good places for older adults to live, particularly in times of an emergency or weather events.”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson