nurse helping an elderly woman, a digital display hangs on the wall

Consistent communication in retirement homes and other assisted living facilities is more important now than ever. 

Residents of retirement communities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other senior living centers are some of the most vulnerable people to COVID-19, the virus spreading around the world. Elderly individuals not only are more susceptible due to age, but also are at risk since they live in close quarters and interact with outside staff. 

If you are an employee or manager for a senior care facility, then your residents are understandably frightened — and so are you and your staff, because it’s your job to keep everyone safe, healthy, and calm

Nurse and senior citizen in a retirement community game room in front of a digital sign
Digital signage can help you communicate new community initiatives during the coronavirus outbreak.

External and internal communications are imperative during this crisis. Your residents cannot afford to be left in the dark. If you need a bit of guidance, the CDC provides an influenza pandemic planning checklist for long-term care and other residential facilities, many elements of which apply to COVID-19. When it comes to facility communication plans, one of the CDC’s recommendations is that: 

“Communication plans include how signs, phone trees, and other methods of communication will be used to inform staff, family members, visitors, and other persons coming into the facility (e.g., sales and delivery people) about the status of pandemic influenza in the facility.” 

Signs are practical for internal communication. However, in a time when people are supposed to maintain distance from one another, you can make them more efficient by adopting signage that is digital. 

With a digital signage network, you could connect all TV screens in your facility — including those inside residents’ rooms — to swiftly and effectively communicate everything they need to know. Here are some examples of ways you can use digital signage in your crisis communication strategy

Provide Residents and Staff With Important Information and Updates 

Use your digital signage to inform residents and staff of relevant information from the CDC about the virus and any developments that arise. Not all of your residents or staff members have access to email, so digital signage can help reach more people and emphasize the importance of the message. If you have a digital signage network that has the ability to override screens, you can make sure people learn what they need to, when they need to. Share information, including: 

COVID-19 Symptoms

Remind residents what the symptoms of COVID-19 are and how they differ from other illnesses (and what health conditions may put them at more risk). Provide plenty of information about what they should do if they fall ill. 

Important contact details

If residents are feeling ill, what phone numbers can they reach medical personnel at? What are the phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses of management in case people need to get a hold of them? Who should staff contact if they discover a resident has contracted the virus? List local and state health department contacts just in case. 

Risk of exposure

Make sure that everyone knows their potential for exposure. While it’s essential for people to understand their level of risk, remember that any cases in the facility should remain anonymous according to HIPAA and ADA guidelines. You should communicate with family members and guardians as well, but you do not want residents to learn anything about their own community from an external source, especially if they’re under quarantine. 

Make sure your messaging offers information without creating further panic. Instead, reassure residents how the situation is being handled and counter potential discrimination and stigma. Always include language for non-English speakers and proper displays for individuals who have difficulty reading. 

Important news updates

Your residents and staff may not pay attention to the news, so convey any essential updates from the CDC and other credible sources regarding the status of the virus and what they need to do to prevent it from spreading (such as shelter-in-place orders). 

Caregiver helping senior citizen walk by a digital sign announcing a virtual concert
Digital signage can provide updates on events for residents and information on how to join when those events are virtual.

Share Event Information 

Digital signage can help you remind residents not to gather in public spaces. A message on the big screen in the common area can serve as an active reminder in case anyone forgets. Also communicate information about other scheduled events everyone should be aware of, such as: 

When cleanings are scheduled

Let residents and staff know when cleanings are scheduled. It is imperative to keep your facility clean for the sake of everyone’s health, so inform them when staff will be coming through and anything they need to do to maintain social distancing. 

Remote community events

While it’s disappointing that in-person game night was canceled, it doesn’t mean that social distancing needs to be lonely! Organize virtual game nights and other events when people can use technology to have fun with each other (staff members can help residents who are unfamiliar with or do not know how to use electronic devices like tablets). 

What’s on the Menu? 

Communal dining is dangerous right now, but retirement homes and assisted living facilities still need to provide food for their residents. Use digital signage to let people know what is on the menu for the day, as well as how and when they can expect to receive it. 

Digital menu display above a communal dining table in a retirement community
Digital menus help residents understand their choices.

Keep Everyone Calm

Keeping people calm is very important. Consistent communication can help reassure residents and staff who are nervous and have lots of questions. Don’t let too long go by without an update — people are feeling lost right now, and you can prevent both panic and disease from spreading by continually reminding everyone what is expected of them and what specific procedures are. Make sure that everything you are doing and every measure you are taking to ensure people’s health and safety are clearly communicated. 

Digital signage is advantageous for informing people what they can do to prevent the virus from spreading as well. Remind residents and staff to:

  • Wash their hands regularly; 
  • Avoid sharing personal items; 
  • Stay inside; 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes; 
  • Use separate bathrooms from those who are ill; 

The CDC provides useful guidance for anyone involved in retirement homes to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Retirement homes that have or are searching for digital signage solutions can benefit from Enplug, which can aid them in communicating with residents, staff members, volunteers, and other personnel.

Ready to learn more about digital signage for retirement communities? Request an Enplug demo.