Sr. Director-Development, Marketing & Communications
On Wed, May 6th, I had the pleasure to spend some time with John Grube, Chairman of the Board at King-Bruwaert House (KBH) - a Life Plan Community in Burr Ridge, IL, to discuss his insights on the current state of the senior living industry and the effects of the novel Coronavirus. He shares some of the challenges faced by KBH, and other communities, fighting the threat of COVID-19. Grube also shares his thoughts on what has helped KBH
in its battle against the virus, and what will help communities prosper in the future.
Q: What do you want others to know about KBH, and the senior living community space in general, regarding COVID-19?
A: It has been a very difficult situation for Life Plan Communities, like KBH, to protect the most at-risk population during this threat. I believe it was extremely important for communities to be proactive in preparing for the virus to put themselves in a situation to come out of the pandemic in the best shape possible. For example, KBH is maintaining an overall healthy community at this point partly due to our early response to COVID-19. We created a restrictive access policy at a very early point to help protect our residents. Also, communities require a workforce of the highest quality to help keep their residents safe and healthy. At KBH, it has always been, but it is now more important than ever, our highest priority to hire and develop the best staff-including nursing, housekeeping, culinary and life enrichment. Communities also need to communicate effectively how they are responding to, and operating, during this crisis. KBH has remained in close and frequent communication with all constituents including staff, residents, family members and the Board of Directors. Clear and comprehensive messages shared frequently will contribute significantly to a high comfort level regarding the outstanding efforts being made at KBH during these challenging times.
Q: What has KBH done well in its fight against the virus?
A: KBH has moved quickly to respond to the threat of Covid-19. We have been extremely cautious about protecting our residents and staff against this disease. We remain committed to being early and aggressive in implementing measures for containment. We imposed restrictions for visitors to our assisted living and skilled nursing residents even before the Illinois Shelter in Place order was executed. We continue to be aggressive in screening staff and residents twice daily by taking temperatures and evaluating individuals for Covid-19 symptoms. Finally, we have also been aggressive in testing and contact tracing in the community. By always responding to early warnings we have a high degree of confidence about our ability to beat COVID-19. The policies, procedures and protocols that we have in place have served us well. So far, we have been fortunate in battling this disease. There have been very few situations that were cause for concern and required a quick and thorough response-and our responses have proven effective. I know Terri Bowen, CEO, and the senior management team, along with the board of directors, are proud of KBH’s track record thus far and our ability as an organization to maintain discipline in response to a constantly changing external environment.
Q: How are you and the board supporting the organization during the pandemic?
A: First, and foremost, we are staying home. We are not attending meetings in the community or visiting with residents or staff. We remain respectful of the policy to restrict non-essential access and the guidance issued by KBH and the state. We are also supporting, as best we can, the COVID-19 Response Fund at KBH. This fund will help KBH offset additional expenditures for required personal protective equipment and extraordinary expenses for which we have not been able to plan.
Q: Outside of the obvious hardship of caring for those most at risk, what has made it difficult for senior living communities to operate during the pandemic?
A: One of our greatest challenges is ensuring the mental and emotional well-being of residents and staff. Our nursing and life enrichment staff have done outstanding work in using the digital world to connect residents with family and friends, allowing virtual visits with loved ones they cannot physically visit. FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype calls have been a blessing and the calls have been so well received by both family and residents that it has turned into almost a full-time job for those staff facilitating the “visits”.
Q: How do you see the landscape changing for the senior care industry, or life plan communities, after the pandemic subsides?
A: I’m not exactly sure how the landscape will change in the industry but I am confident KBH and the consortium of local senior living communities will continue to concentrate on building the inventory of PPE and test kits needed as we move through the next 12 to 24 months. In addition, we have learned the importance of laying the groundwork for preparing for future pandemics. KBH already has policies and procedures in place to combat Influenza, and this helped the community in our fight against this new coronavirus. The plans will need to be reviewed, and reshaped, to fight even more serious health threats in the future. One thing is for certain, we will not change course at KBH, and we will continue to seek ways to provide high level of care across our continuum. We will also stay the course with our planning for the expansion of KBH through a new independent living apartment building (The Gardens of King-Bruwaert), and expansion and renovation of our skilled nursing and memory care facility. We are concentrating on the present without compromising our future.
Since 1933, King-Bruwaert House has provided a gracious, caring and uniquely special home for senior men and women. We respect and build on this tradition of enhancing individual dignity, independence and self-esteem.
Our mission to provide unsurpassed levels of service that cater to assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and independent living. We will make every effort to meet the physical, social and emotional needs of our residents.
Pat Jahn of The Woods of King-Bruwaert, an experienced quilter, took it upon herself to create cloth masks for all employees outside of personal care, and we couldn't be more grateful for her generosity and heroic thinking.
Dear Friends – I hope this letter finds you safe and healthy. Our plan for a Spring Appeal was to launch a number of new Funds, giving donors more opportunities to direct their giving towards purposes they value and cherish…and then our world changed with the arrival of COVID-19.
The King-Bruwaert House (KBH) community, which offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care for seniors, found ourselves immediately with a population of residents that were some of the most at-risk. Before it was required, the leadership of KBH implemented visitor restrictions; hand washing and disinfecting at higher levels; directing nonessential staff to work remotely to limit community exposure; and symptom and temperature checks for residents and staff continue to take place at multiple times throughout the day. All these proactive efforts have now been deemed essential best practice…and these actions were a critical factor in keeping the people of KBH safe and protected. Currently we are without any staff or residents infected.
Safeguarding each of our own worlds has come with costs at a time when stock markets are uncertain and income is not as secure as it once was. We have experienced the same concerns in our efforts to be responsive to unprecedented times. Required supplies needed to keep our community safe, like personal protective equipment (PPE-medical masks, gowns, gloves, etc.) hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, are increasingly difficult to obtain or are found at inflated prices. Many of our staff have been working overtime to cover the required attention to cleanliness and care to combat any threat of the virus. With new admissions being limited at this time, that impacts our cash flow as well.
Daily, people are reaching out to us and looking for ways to help. It might be sewing masks, shopping for sanitizer, helping purchase or donate needed supplies, or wanting to support our dedicated staff in their efforts. To provide a simple and focused way for people to help where it is needed the most makes the most sense, so we have created a COVID-19 RESPONSE FUND at KBH.
As we all face our own challenges during this pandemic, we are also seeing unprecedented expressions of support. As you are able, we hope that you will be a partner with us to make sure that all the residents who call KBH their home will have the continued quality of care and services we are known to provide.
We have just launched an opportunity for you to make your donations online to this Fund at www.kingbruwaert.org. With this convenience we hope you will also consider covering the 3% processing fee to ensure your total donation goes to support our residents during these difficult times. You may also mail checks with the attached sheet, or contact our Director of Development, Michael Trench at (630) 230-9553 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss stock and other donations.
With grateful appreciation for your support,
PS: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes an above-the-line deduction for all taxpayers in 2020 (even those who don’t itemize) for related charitable contributions up to $300.
I would like to thank everyone for their resolve during the COVID-19 threat and the restrictions that we have had to put in place to keep our community safe. We have received many notes from residents, family members, and friends praising the work of our employees during the pandemic. I am also extremely proud of all our employees who have risen above this challenge and continue to provide the level of care our residents and families expect at King-Bruwaert House (KBH).
In light of Governor Pritzker’s announcement yesterday that he will enact another executive order pushing the “shelter in place” date back through April 30th, we will also move our restrictions to at least that date to mirror the rest of the state. These dates are based on information received from the CDC, IDPH, medical professionals, statistic modelers, and other government agencies. Whereas, the restrictions continue to disrupt our normal way of life at KBH we promise that we will do everything in our power to focus on providing options that support all dimensions of wellness of our residents.
As you may have seen through social media, or other media outlets, our staff continue to assist our residents with Facetime and Skype calls to their family and friends. These have been going extremely well, and our scheduled calls continue to increase. Also, staff have started an alternate “KB Salon” as our current in-house salon has had to close due to the restrictions. Staff is visiting residents in their room to help style their hair and are providing gift bags with self- care products. Another way we are focused on creative ways to keep life as normal as possible. Our #MakeKBSeniorsSmile campaign has also been a big hit and we are receiving many videos, artwork, pictures, poems, and other uplifting messages for our residents. These are being shared during one on one visits by our social work and life enrichment staff. In turn, we are taking pictures of our residents smiling to share back out into the community.
We continue to try and secure as much Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer that is needed to continue to keep KBH healthy. Vendors and suppliers have limited or no stock, and most that do, are offering products at an increased rate. This is only one area of unforeseen expenses we have faced due to the pandemic. We continue to look into creative ways to help with this, including the acquisition of hand sanitizer from KOVAL distillery in Chicago, which has been approved to modify its operations to creating FDA approved sanitizer. Also, we have had a wonderful group of volunteers which have been sewing masks that are reusable for our staff. This has helped decrease our reliance on purchased masks, but this is only a temporary fix.
I have been asked by many people if there is a way to help during this time, and soon we will be sending out an appeal to help offset the costs that we have incurred due to battling the COVID- 19 threat. This COVID-19 response fund will help support the purchase of equipment and supplies, and other pandemic related expenses. The appeal will be sent out shortly and we appreciate any help you will be able to provide.
Once again, I thank you all and look forward to when we come together and celebrate as a united community.
To learn more about the great work being performed by our team members, follow the link below to an article on Patch.com:
Terri Bowen, CEO
Hello Friends of King-Bruwaert House,
I would like to provide you an update from our community regarding our procedures and plans to keep our residents safe. Fortunately, we continue to have no reported cases of COVID-19. In addition to current restriction, we have also temporarily suspended therapies-physical, occupational, and speech— except in the case of emergency. Additionally, consultants (rounding specialists, podiatrists, etc.) will either work remotely or come into the community, again, only on an emergency basis—and after having been carefully screened. Also, we have enhanced our screening of employees and are taking temperatures two-times daily, rather than just once.
Our staff continues their amazing performance of providing high-quality care during these turbulent times. Disinfection of common areas, shared resident items, and high-touch areas continues regularly. Also, we recognize that communication between residents and their families and friends is vital to their well-being, and we have scheduled Skype and FaceTime calls so they can continue their visits virtually. Our staff is also keeping open lines of communication with residents’ families to let them know how they are doing and how we are assisting them.
One small example of how our staff are going above and beyond is shown through efforts to provide regular salon services to our residents since our salon had to close due to restrictions. Staff have stepped up to visit residents who are sheltered in their rooms to style hair. This, and many other examples we see on a daily basis, shows the mindset of care and determination that our employees have taken. I couldn’t be prouder of this team!
King-Bruwaert House has also planned for additional restrictions that may be recommended or enacted by government agencies. We have created contingency plans to continue a high-level of care for our residents if current restrictions last for an indefinite amount of time, or if a larger shelter-in-place is in order. One continued area of concern is the lack of distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing. We are working with our vendors, and new sources, to continue the supply needed. I, along with other CEOs of local senior communities, have written to Governor Pritzker asking for help in regard to these items.
I hope you and your loved ones are well, and I will continue to provide regular updates to keep you informed of how our residents and staff are doing. If you would like to share some encouraging words, stories, artwork, or pictures with our residents, please visit our Facebook page and use the hashtag #MakeKBSeniorsSmile.
Please help us keep our community healthy and Safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic