How Beacon Hill Is Caring for Its Residents Amid a Worldwide Pandemic
When COVID-19 entered our lives in mid-March, it threw us all into a world where we had never been, with no preparation on how to stay safe and protected, no understanding of what we were in for or for how long, and no idea of the personal toll it would take. Some of us have seen friends and family stricken with the virus, perhaps even losing them, and all of us have altered our lives in ways that we would have thought, before the virus, as unimaginable. Yet, here we are.
For most of us, it’s a huge inconvenience and requires us to get by without the things that brought us joy – get-togethers with our family and friends, meals out at favorite restaurants, attending live performances and movies, or just friendly banter with our neighbors. But most of us are not responsible for the care, indeed, the livelihood of hundreds of individuals. That is not the case with April Schaab, Operations Director and Administrator at Beacon Hill.
While certainly well-trained in how to efficiently and expertly run a retirement community, April had no graduate course on combatting a coronavirus, nor any experience with protecting residents in a continuing care population from a pandemic, but she learned and did so at warp speed.
It was always April’s responsibility to ensure that all services provided at Beacon Hill were done at the highest quality standard achievable and to make sure that all residents were happy. That has not changed, but the circumstances of doing so have changed dramatically. The upheaval in caring for an at-risk population, which includes every single person living at Beacon Hill, was cataclysmic or at least would have been in less capable hands. With April, however, she got right to it.
“It’s been a moving and constantly changing target,” April said, when describing how she handles her day-to-day responsibilities. Rules and regulations are changing daily and that requires April and her managers to change policies and then communicate those changes to the staff. “It’s absolutely critical,” April explains, “that everyone understands what needs to be changed and how new procedures must be implemented.”
Each day brings an entire series of interactions that April conducts with a myriad of Federal, State, County and City departments and officials. On a daily basis, April must report to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on these:
- Resident census
- Any suspected or actual cases of COVID-19
- Number of ventilators
- Personal protective equipment inventories
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also requires frequent updates. It is a department of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates all aspects of care within licensed environments and provides reimbursement for services rendered under those licenses. COVID-19 has added significant paperwork and new surveys related to infection control that April must now report.
The Kent County Health Department has helped by setting up testing sites and processes, providing daily updates on local statistics and guiding us on how to operate our restaurants and services under the new COVID-19 circumstances. The City of Grand Rapids has assisted as well with clarifying code standards associated with the Governor’s Executive Order restrictions and providing a systematic way to evaluate which services we provide are essential.
“All of us are learning as we go,” April says. The same is true for all the governmental agencies and departments that provide Beacon Hill with information and oversight but also control and monitor when and how we receive all the materials and supplies needed to care for our residents while also keeping everyone safe.
There have been dramatic changes for dining, housekeeping, life enrichment and, of course, nursing, April explains, but the most important thing is helping the team adjust their focus on continuing our Five S*T*A*R service within a restricted environment. She spends most of her time ensuring that it is carried out. “I just cannot say enough about our managers – they’re doing a fantastic job and always brainstorming new ways to improve our care of residents. I am so honored to serve alongside them.”
Beacon Hill residents, in return, are thankful for this extraordinary effort by April and all of those who provide their care. Here is a sampling of their gratitude:
“I am so grateful to be a resident of Beacon Hill. I feel safe, secure, loved and well taken care of. I thank God for all of you – and may he bless you and all of us with good health and peace of mind.”
“I feel safer and more protected here than if I left to be with family or friends. That is an amazing thing! It is all due to all the extra work you are doing and your many kindnesses to us by your actions, your words and your smiles!”
“You have calmed our souls! As well as nourished our bodies. These are uncertain times, worldwide. We are very thankful to be here at Beacon Hill in this happy, caring environment and know that God is watching all of us and cares for us.”
For updated information on how Beacon Hill is working to protect its residents and employees from COVID-19, visit http://www.beaconhillgr.org/covid-19.