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How local retirement communities are responding to Covid-19 [video]

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. 

On this episode of Chamber Coronavirus Impact Insights, Madeline McCarthy, Senior regional director of operations at TJM Properties joins Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst to talk about how the retirement communities she operates are faring during the Covid-19 pandemic.

McCarthy, who is also the Chair of Leadership St. Pete this year, describes how TJM Properties, which operates retirement communities in Florida and Virginia, is operating with vulnerable populations under “Safer At Home” orders.

In healthcare, McCarthy says, emergency protocols are in place for just about everything, including a pandemic flu. But the Covid-19 pandemic has forced some unique changes to policies and procedures. She says that the unique support of local emergency management operations, as well as the State of Florida, have stood out to her, in contrast to the company’s locations in Virginia that have not received the same support. In Florida, the National Guard has been mobilized to check in with retirement communities and ensure that they have everything they need while residents are under full quarantine.

According to McCarthy, the retirement communities she operates are not accepting visitors unless medically necessary, and all staff are required to interact with residents utilizing full protective equipment protocols, including masks and gowns. Thanks to those requirements, none of the communities McCarthy cares for have had any confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.

Some of that success in protecting residents can be attributed to TJM Properties’ early lockdown procedures. The residents at TJM Properties were already locked down before the Firestone Grand Prix was cancelled, back in early March. While the company’s usual channels for PPE have repositioned to serve markets such as New York and New Jersey, they have received generous donations from the community.

One struggle that many retirement communities and nursing homes are facing is the adverse effects of isolation on mental health. McCarthy says that although residents are isolated from their families, TJM Properties has made an effort to connect residents with their families and friends virtually. They set up remote stations and digital opportunities using Zoom, Skype, Facebook Chat and other services. But they’ve also implemented pen pal programs for seniors.

Life within the communities has also changed. Since meals together in a single dining hall are no longer a safe option, staff has worked to create opportunities for smaller group interactions of less than five, to utilize hallway games and project online gaming systems so residents can feel connected while staying safe.

As the Chair of Leadership St. Pete, McCarthy is also keenly aware of how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the 40 members of this year’s class. McCarthy credits the Leadership St. Pete planning committee with making sure the class is informed and up-to-date with the programs that the city is sponsoring to combat the coronavirus.

Each year, Leadership St. Pete takes on a social impact project to make a difference in the community. This year, the project was shifted to support Covid-19 relief efforts with the city of St. Petersburg’s Fighting Chance Fund.

Resources:

Leadership St. Pete: https://www.stpete.com/leadership-programs/leadership-st-pete/

Fighting Chance Fund: http://www.stpete.org/assistance/fighting_chance_fund.php

Kriseman update on Fighting Chance Fund, further closures:  https://stpetecatalyst.com/city-expands-fighting-chance-fund-to-st-pete-business-owners-who-live-outside-city/

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