By Tim Regan | April 16, 2020. Senior Housing News
The Covid-19 pandemic has put overwhelming pressures on senior living providers — and some are offering additional psychological health services as a way to help residents, staff and family members cope in the meantime.
While many senior living communities are well-equipped to deal with the physical care of their residents, they don’t always have the tools to address their mental wellbeing. Those shortcomings are only exacerbated by the social distancing and isolation measures required by the Covid-19 pandemic. All the while, some senior living residents are prone to anxiety and depression, two conditions very likely worsened by the new Covid-19 reality.
Covid-19 has driven demand for a variety of products and services in senior living, with technology providers in areas such as telehealth seeing huge surges in demand. But at least one company that provides behavioral health support to senior living providers believes that the pandemic is also changing providers’ viewpoints on this service.
Melville, New York-based WellQor Management Services employs part- and full-time counselors who work with more than 150 communities nationwide, including some operated by Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD), Sunrise Senior Living, Carlton Senior Living and New Perspective Senior Living.
In March, WellQor launched a new program to help residents, staff and loved ones deal with the fear and anxiety brought on by Covid-19. To help facilitate that, the company also set up a new crisis support hotline inspired by a similar one set up in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. And the company has made available video and telephone consultation services as the pandemic forces people farther apart.
In general, the Covid-19 crisis has precipitated a shift in thinking among many senior living providers regarding when and how to use behavioral health services, according to WellQor CEO David Schwam.
“Our focus had been on being reactive … much like they would dispatch a podiatrist if a resident has a bunion, [senior living leaders] were viewing our role as a vendor in a similar capacity,” Schwam told Senior Housing News. “Now the shift is taking place where some of these communities are saying, wait a minute, we need to integrate behavioral health into the normal operations of our business.”
‘The anxiety, the fear, the loss’
WellQor’s Covid-19 program is aimed at helping staff and residents manage all of the new stressors of the pandemic.