Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, business definitely was as usual at Flower Mound’s Avanti Assisted Living and Memory Care, but such wasn’t the case beginning in mid-March.
“Every day was literally a different day with a ton of changes,” said Lori Alford, co-founder and chief operating officer of the seven Avanti locations. “Looking back there was a lot of uncertainty as to what the virus was, who it attacked, how was it transmitted. There were so many unknowns that there was a lot of uncertainty to any health care operator.
“It was just about daily that we got new guidance based on new data the health care professionals were learning. For the first 4-5 weeks it was a lot of adapting and being flexible. We took a very aggressive approach early on with what we called ‘bubbling up our building.’
“In all of our markets we were one of the first to say ‘no more visitors, only essential people.’ Our third-party service providers we basically said we only want one person to come in and out and that person needs to be designated 100 percent to Avanti. We don’t want them working at hospitals or other providers or homes because we were learning this virus was shedding off of people. We closed up our building and only let in staff and very few third-party medical people to protect our residents and team members.”
Avanti also immediately connected with a national medical director to work with patient’s doctors and families to determine the best courses of action for each. It engaged its advanced tele-health system to easily connect health care providers with residents and keep them out of hospitals.
“It was another way to bubble-up our building,” Alford said. “Nobody came in and few people went out and we were able to create this safe place within our community.
“We just kept educating our team members around our system and the virus including washing their hands and physical distancing. I hate saying social distancing because it’s not really social distancing. We’re just physically distanced. We’re humans. We need to socialize. We want our residents to socialize. We just have to physically distance.”
Thanks to the efforts of her 60-80 staff, Alford said Avanti has been able to completely avoid any infections either by residents or personnel.
“That’s pretty incredible. It comes from we reacted quickly, we partnered with the right people and our team rallied to the call,” she said.
“I’m a firm believer that crisis shows your strengths and weaknesses. Our culture is something most companies talk about and don’t really know what that is until a challenge time and COVID created that, and for us it showed we have a great culture. We’ve been told our culture has grown stronger and is a force to be reckoned with.”
What impressed Alford the most is where some medical facilities had staffing shortages, her staff embraced the change and came to work each day.
“Our staff showed up. Yes we provided hero pay but they came to work and came to work with smiles on their faces,” she said. “They came to work because they wanted to be the family that the residents couldn’t see any more. They have provided extra special care to our residents.”
Staff deliver meals to residents in their rooms and group gatherings have been cut. But being at the facility allows them to be observed every day, get hot meals and see people if not touch them.
“Now we’ve learned how to operate in the new normal. Our biggest challenge is ‘how do we help our residents and families because we’re still under state mandates of no visitors?’” Alford said. “We care for a very frail population and while we have protected them from the virus, because of the protocols the virus has created there are new challenges including depression and isolation.
“They’re not able to go out moving around as much. They can’t join any group activities. They are not getting as much interaction with other people. I’m thankful that we were able to care for our residents because I can’t imagine having my mom or dad at home in care where they truly are alone.”
To help families remain connected, Avanti has sent them daily email updates. Family members also can Skype with residents, visit through windows and have car parades.
“It’s been an interesting three months,” Alford said. “We had to learn how to completely operate under new circumstances. We basically took our company, lifted it upside down, shook it out, set it back down and put everything back in and adjusted to COVID.”
Find Avanti Senior Living Flower Mound at flowermound.avanti-sl.com or call 469-294-1080.