Sure, everyone loves a white Christmas — but in Cincinnati, residents probably could have done with a little less snow over the holiday. On the Friday before Christmas, an historic storm blew into the city, creating dangerously wintery conditions for residents. Within six hours, temperatures dropped by a record-breaking 39 degrees; strong wind gusts and blizzarding snow made roads impassable overnight. By the time the storm cleared the morning of Christmas Eve, nearly five inches of snow had covered the ground.
The wintery weather wasn’t anyone’s vision of an ideal start for the holiday weekend — and for many, there was little else to do but stock up, hunker down and hope that the power stayed on. However, according to Marc George, an administrator at the Cincinnati-area senior residential community Bayley, waiting out a storm isn’t always the most comfortable prospect for people with elderly family members.
“When the roads ice over and visibility drops, it can be difficult to get out of your driveway, let alone check on a senior family member who lives independently,” George pointed out. “You start asking yourself, ‘Will I be able to get to my elderly mom or dad if their power goes out and they no longer have heat? Do they have enough groceries to carry them through the next 24 hours?’”
“You can’t help but worry because you know the family member has to take care of themselves until you get there,” he said. “There’s no backup plan; everything’s on you.”
According to the AARP, over three-quarters (77%) of adults aged 50 and over wish to remain at home as they age. However, independent living situations can become increasingly stressful — and even dangerous — as seniors grow older and require more support to live comfortably. At a certain point, moving into a residential community may be the best way to maintain an elderly relative’s quality of life and ensure they stay safe through inclement weather.
“A residential community can provide a lot of reassurance and support for families during adverse conditions,” George pointed out. “At Bayley, we didn’t lose power, which is an accomplishment we take great pride in. Our residents could have well-balanced hot meals, use the internet, exercise, spend time with friends and participate in Mass and recreational activities. The daily routines of life went on.” Their holiday merrymaking went on as well, with music, treats, décor and festivities!
Winter storm warnings prompt a flurry of preparation
Of course, providing that sense of normalcy required quite a bit of proactive work from the Bayley team. The community began preparing for the storm as soon as it received an inclement weather warning. This process naturally included gathering additional groceries and supplies to ensure residents would have everything they needed during the storm — but according to George, Bayley’s contingency planning went far beyond making a few additional supply runs.
“We did a lot of proactive thinking about staffing,” he said. “We provide 24-hour, 365-day support to our residents, so we must be adequately staffed even if the roads close.”
Fortunately, Bayley had plenty of campus resources to turn toward the challenge. George and his team identified a few rooms that clinical staff scheduled to work over the weekend could stay in if they didn’t feel comfortable commuting through the weather. Leadership also extended Bayley’s campus transportation services to its clinical and nonclinical employees to ensure that all team members could come to work safely.
Other vital departments, such as the maintenance and housekeeping crews, operated with reduced teams so residents’ living spaces would remain clean, comfortable and — above all else — safe through the storm. And, unlike their off-campus peers, those residents never needed to worry if they would run out of food, since Bayley’s on-campus dining services remained operational throughout the weekend and could deliver hot meals upon request.
“We don’t ever stop providing services,” George said. “Sure, a bad-weather day might look a little different from a normal day; we might have a skeleton crew on-site. But our residents will still receive the care and quality of life they deserve regardless of what nature decides to drop on us.”
Bayley’s redundant systems keep residents safe and warm through the storm
Of course, providing a consistent experience is more complicated than it might sound on first listen. Mechanical breakdowns are inevitable; eventually, something will go wrong, and a system will no longer function as expected. The key to keeping residents safe and warm through these disruptions, according to Bayley’s Maintenance Manager, Larry Niehaus, is redundancy.
“We designed our system to be redundant to reduce the risk of failure,” Niehaus explained. “We have two generators and two boilers; if one goes down, we know that the other will keep our residents safe while we bring a maintenance professional on-site to fix the problem.”
For example, Bayley’s assisted living facility utilizes two heating systems — one for the residents’ rooms and one for the hallways and shared living spaces. If the heating element in a senior’s room goes down during a storm, they can move to a shared space to stay warm while the maintenance crew addresses the problem. Moreover, because most of Bayley’s maintenance team members live within a half hour of the facility, technical issues are typically resolved within a few hours, instead of the day (or more) seniors living independently might need to wait for resolution.
Interestingly, the Bayley team also applies this pro-redundancy philosophy to its leadership approach. While most senior care communities have only one licensed nursing home administrator on staff, Bayley maintains four. This redundancy ensures that no matter the situation, at least one person who understands state regulations can make critical decisions during a crisis or natural disaster.
“Redundancy is critical,” George said. “At Bayley, we firmly believe that operations shouldn’t grind to a halt because one person couldn’t fight through the snow or rain to be on campus. Our residents deserve to feel comfortable at all times and regardless of circumstance.”
Providing a warm, supportive home for seniors year-round
Deciding to relocate to a residential community is never easy. However, at a certain point, doing so may be the best decision a senior and their family can make.
“It’s difficult to step back and entrust your loved one’s care to someone else,” George said. “It’s stressful, and it can feel as though you’re handing over responsibility — but it’s important to understand that a residential change can benefit everyone. At Bayley, we offer a variety of residential options so seniors can maintain the level of independence they want while receiving the community support and practical care they need.”
Today, aspiring Bayley residents can choose to reside independently in on-campus cottages and receive light assistance (e.g., via housekeeping, maintenance and on-campus transportation services). Alternatively, seniors can opt for an assisted living arrangement that provides daily support for basic self-care activities and needs or move into a memory care facility for round-the-clock support. All options empower elders to live their retirement to the fullest without risking their safety or putting their loved ones under stress. Bayley also offers respite stays, to enable families to have their loved ones safe while the families travel, or to try out residential options.
“You know that, no matter what, someone at Bayley will always be there to ensure your loved one won’t be alone,” George concluded. “Their quality of life won’t suffer just because you can’t safely get out of your driveway.”
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