COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we live and work, but it pales in comparison to the harmful effects it has brought to our elderly population.
The pandemic forced businesses within every industry to spring into action, quickly reinventing themselves to stay afloat. Some businesses adapted more successfully than others, and the marketplace separated the winners from the losers. Despite the fear the virus has created, some industries have discovered new opportunities among the chaos. Sparked by the desire to help people find relief in these trying times, the senior care industry has risen up in response to the call to help keep seniors safe and healthy.
As we support senior care businesses with digital marketing with the goal of helping seniors and their families connect with the care they need, I wanted to reach out to experts in the senior care industry to learn more about how they were adapting to the challenge that COVID-19 has brought into our world.
The senior care industry has relied on traditional marketing strategies for decades. Most senior care agencies are still putting their faith in printed collateral material, magazine ads, and paid advertisements in local newspapers to continue building their businesses. While it’s possible to have some success with print ads and in-person sales calls to retirement communities, those aren’t necessarily the best strategies for getting referrals.
In today’s world, it’s vital for senior care agencies to have a digital presence. If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19, it’s that the world continues to change and evolve, even when we become static and hang onto outdated marketing practices. The pandemic has demonstrated that it’s prime time to bring the senior care industry into the 21st century, from a marketing perspective.
Franchises within the senior care industry have led the way by taking advantage of the great value that various digital marketing channels offer. Senior care agencies that are resistant to making the switch to digital marketing are missing the new opportunities that COVID-19 have brought right to their front door.
In light of recent developments, I decided to reach out to CEOs, owners, marketing directors, and industry leaders working in the home care and assisted living care industries to ask them this question:
“What is the impact of COVID-19 in the senior care industry, and what role does digital marketing play in it?”
Their answers were nothing short of enlightening.
Heather Freemont– Cleveland/Akron, Ohio
Vice President Marketing, Regional Director of Operations
Digital Marketing has always played a significant role in how we connect with seniors, but during this pandemic, it has become apparent just how indispensable its role is both within our operations and the overall Senior Care industry. With COVID-19 came a complete shift in the ways through which we connect with seniors, forcing us to quickly adapt and pivot our approach in various aspects to accommodate the challenges presented during this unprecedented time.
Among the largest difficulties were the limitations posed by social distancing and isolation. Without the ability to physically tour seniors through our communities and have them experience the renowned amenities, programs and culinary offerings firsthand, we quickly transitioned to using digital means including slideshows, electronic brochures, videos, Facetime tours, meal drop-offs and photos to demonstrate the newly-created engagement opportunities offered at our communities. Recognizing the challenges posed by visitor restrictions, we helped supplement family visits by developing a plan to facilitate virtual visits through the introduction of 12 iPads at each community and the creation of electronic newsletters, email letter templates and quadrupled social media postings; all with the goal of keeping loved ones connected and up-to-date with one another despite the distance.
We quickly adapted our website and other communication streams to make health and safety resources readily available to families and to deliver pertinent updates and information on our practices and protocols of safety, sanitation, infection control and prevention. To bolster our commitment to being a resource for seniors and their families, we increased email marketing and created various electronic booklets, tip sheets, blog posts and guides to help seniors navigate COVID-19-related concerns, encourage a continuously active and healthy lifestyle and mitigate a variety of other challenges faced during this time. Our consumer-centric marketing and sales approach became more focused and important as we increased our education and support groups and offered online classes and stimulating and engaging programs virtually.
While many providers chose to completely stop or halt their marketing efforts, we did quite the opposite. We doubled our PPC and increased all of our digital campaigns to have a large reach in the community, knowing that many seniors were in serious need of our support and assistance during this challenging time.
Lucie Barry-Punches– San Diego, California
Director of Social Media Digital Marketing
The impact of COVID-19 in the senior care industry has been tremendous and it has altered marketing while keeping the basic principles the same. Marketers will continue to build strong relationships and establish trust, but must adapt and utilize alternative methods. The role of a Digital Marketer has become more prominent and integrated and we continue to be more strategic.
While not conducting in person tours, and instead sharing digital tours either by text or email is more responsive. This gives families the ability to share information amongst themselves. Due to the pandemic, prospects are no longer able to drop in when the sales teams could accommodate. By bridging the physical gap and reaching those in the comfort of their homes, we are able to share with more prospects in a more efficient manner. By virtually sharing video messages and directing prospects to our content-rich social media pages, we are able to share the true heartbeat of our communities.
All marketers, but especially those in senior living, have had to reevaluate past strategies and creatively come up with a “new normal.” When strategic with social media posts, we are better able to provide a more comprehensive window into each of our communities’ daily happenings. Those who did not see the value or know how to utilize Facetime, Zoom, Google Duo and social media to their advantage hopefully do now!
While the strategies may have changed during COVID, the people building strong relationships and establishing trust have adapted.
Carey Lingenfelter– Fayetteville, Arkansas
Chief Engagement Officer
This pandemic has certainly developed this unprecedented time in all our lives. The impact of staying home has been felt by many. The anxiety and pressure most of us have felt is similar to the silent pandemic of social isolation effects we’ve seen in the Senior Care industry for the last 25 years.
At Home Instead Senior Care®, we have been enhancing the lives of aging adults and their families by providing companionship, personal and memory care services. We provide the services that enable our most vulnerable population to stay safe, independent, and secure in the comfort of their own home. Most of our clients are in their 80’s. Many of them have multiple chronic conditions and about 2/3s of them are managing some form of dementia.
Although there may never be a full replacement of the type of personal, in-home, human touch care that we provide, we have been pioneers in the virtual visit space. Our current movement toward transforming care delivery by including virtual care capability has been validated during this crisis. We have been very focused on innovations in technology to continue those enhancements and provide the highest quality of care.
With our Integrated Care approach, we have utilized GrandPad technology to have a direct connection with clients in their homes. It combines highly personalized, traditional CAREGiving with the high-tech features of GrandPad. Virtually connecting them to their loved ones and our staff. Reducing the effects of isolation, reducing unnecessary risks and increasing the speed of care delivery.
We have leveraged our social networks to create a community call to action, “Ready to Care”. Focused on making the world a better place for seniors, Ready to Care is a social media platform designed to inspire care through small acts of kindness for seniors.
We feel that our marketing efforts should ensure that Home Instead Senior Care® is top of mind to anyone considering home care. Now more than ever, a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes online components (e.g., social media, SEO, SEM, PPC, email, text, blogs, banners, PPC, etc.), will enable us to continue our community outreach and direct networking.
Pedro Gonzalez Soto M.D. FAAPMR– Tampa, Florida
What’s the impact of Covid19 in the Home Care Industry and what is the role Digital Marketing Plays?
Coronavirus outbreak will impact almost every aspect of how homecare businesses operate and, most importantly, life as we know it. It has made us aware of how vulnerable and human we are. However, with my experience and knowledge as a doctor, I’m confident that if we provide proactive type care, our industry will thrive.
Our mission is to support more patients at home amid nearly nationwide stay-at-home orders. The question now is, how do we protect our seniors during these difficult times we are living? While there’s not a simple answer to this question. It’s crucial to follow all CDC and WHO guidelines while finding ways to assure patients, families, and our referral partners that we are implementing all of our COVID19 protocols and that our caregivers are working in an environment that they feel safe.
Older adults are among the most vulnerable, and unfortunately, that’s our reality. Families are concerned about the safety of their loved ones and how to reduce the risk of exposure. To support and care for more patients at home, it’s vital to have a strong marketing and online presence. Many people are still working from home, which gives them time to do more research. Being active on social media is key to our business. Clients want to know what we are doing daily to care for their loved ones; it’s our time to connect and educate about the benefits of Home Health Care.
I think home health care has enormous potential to help in the COVID-19 crisis. Older adults that are going without care are likely to see some deterioration in their condition, which may require emergency services and hospitalization. Having a passionate caregiver will give our elderly continuation of care, and it can help keep patients away from the hospital and minimize the risk of contagion.
Mike Miller – San Diego, California
Owner at Home Care Service
Covid-19 has changed a lot in everybody’s lives. The most affected are our seniors and their families.
This pandemic has increased the need for help to keep seniors safe. The nursing home crisis has added to this need because many families have decided to bring their loved ones home. With parents homeschooling kids at home, the need to hire senior care services has skyrocketed. The fact being that we can’t conduct in-person sales has created an immense need to implement digital marketing strategies that align with the current needs. We have started to work with a digital marketing agency that focuses on the senior care industry only because we feel that is not a better time to invest in marketing than now. The digital marketing strategy for At Home Care Service is the following:
Create a new SEO friendly website with a clear message for seniors and their families. It is key to communicate clearly that we are here to support them in these difficult times. We also stated that our caregivers follow CDC protocols and we are more than prepared to assist them. Our website features a landing page- funnel where we offer an ebook to generate leads. We will acquire new clients by running a hyper-targeted Facebook ad to send traffic to the landing page. An email marketing campaign with automation will follow the leads in the funnel of sales and we will also call them as soon as we get them. Due to the lockdown, we know that people are looking for services online. Furthermore, the agency that we are working with has proposed to focus on local SEO to boost our presence in Google Maps. This makes complete sense for us. We are also adding blogs and acquiring links to boost overall SEO. Therefore, we are confident that with this digital marketing strategy we will be able to increase our sales by assisting people in need of home care services in San Diego.
It is common that the decision-makers in the senior care industry were neglecting to accept the need for digital marketing and relying on traditional marketing only. Now, due to the pandemic and the loss of human touch, Digital Marketing has become a huge need and a great way to connect with potential clients in order to grow our business.
Roger L. Benedetti, RPh, BPharm – New Jersey
COVID-19 impact on the Senior Care industry was sudden, changes had to be made immediately, and were not anticipated when planning the budget. Some examples include:
• For both clients and caregivers, many resources, including money and time, were spent locating and putting protocols in place for:
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Personal sanitization supplies
• Testing such as temperature equipment and supplies
• Technology changes in business operations:
• Establish teleworking capabilities
• Migrate to virtual meetings for client assessments, registered nurse supervision, as well as for interviews to hire caregivers
• Conversation to electronic/digital forms
• Software enhancements to record and document employees health screen prior to start of work each day
• Emails and website updates to inform of company’s COVID-19 polices and procedures
• Personnel costs:
• Additional employee training to ensure compliance with state and federal CDC guidelines
• Increased payroll burdens related to paid sick, medical, or family leave
• Staffing issues that could only be solved by paying a premium or overtime to existing employees
• Hiring new caregivers, already extremely difficult normally, was make even more challenging by:
• Potential employees making more on unemployment than by working
• Fear of catching the virus while working in a health care environment
• Property Expenses incurred while business office was closed or unoccupied:
Most of the above was part of the immediate focus to mitigate infection risk while still ensuring providing reliable and safe care. However, it was also important to not forget about changes in sales and marketing efforts:
• Sales visits with potential new clients were shifted to virtual meetings
• Marketing representatives were restricted from rising key accounts in person
• This lead to changes in marketing practices, such as doing inside sales and increasing digital marketing efforts (website, SEO , blogs, social media, etc.)
Douglas Kennedy – Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
COVID-19 has prompted digital marketers and communication experts to take a step back and think about how we communicate to both our patients and our employees. The senior care industry at large is now looking to develop sustainable home care, which provided a solid safety net for those in the senior care industry who wanted to receive quality and professional services in the safety of their own home. The way we provide transitions of care in the age of COVID-19 has shifted, with home health care at the center of the conversation.
• As a digital marketer, the primary responsibility is to tell a story and invite others to be a part of that narrative with your company, in my case Blessings4Ever. You invite clients and patients to join you, not just to receive services, but to unite with your purpose and benefit as a result. COVID-19 has caused every marketing expert to go back to their mission and vision. All your communication, messaging, and content has to revolve around those two things. When everyone asks, “How did Blessings4Ever handle COVID-19?” then there is a story to tell that fulfills a mission and casts an overarching vision, and people are inspired and feel safe joining you on the journey.
Francis LeGasse – Denver, Colorado
Covid-19 challenges the senior care industry to exam our current practices and ideas. With the emergence of the first nursing homes over 50 years ago, many in the industry attempt to beautify or create a resort style living. The Senior Care industry is more enamored by the building and grounds itself and less with care models. Covid-19 highlights the importance of care. The forward thinkers must focus on high quality care models along with a beautiful environment. Further, it highlights the importance of highly trained staff who are not only skilled but compassionate. Leaders are emerging who will disrupt the status quo senior living. For those of us who push the envelope on creativity, we are at a tipping to truly shape and alter the way we age. No longer will our older adults have to just accept the way we but be active in designing and implementing the new care models. Care is the most important aspect!
Additionally, Covid-19 gives the industry a moment of pause to truly ask the question; should we have 100 plus older adults living together? This is both a practical and philosophical question to answer. Are we doing more harm by segregating and isolating those who are aging? Should we be working to create an inclusive community that meets the physical care needs but also the emotional and social? The time is now to challenge are views of aging. Leaders in Senior Care must do more for our older adults by having thoughtful discussions that lead to meaningful action. Discussion without action is fruitless. Leaders must focus on action in order to have a positive impact on the way we age. Now is the time to ignite hope for our older adults!
Role of Digital Marketing
An untapped arena for those in aging services. Our ability to accurately connect with our prospective residents and their families is second to none. Our targeting capabilities through ads and media is critically important to showcase the level of care. It truly is an underused area of marketing but also one that must create stories. Our mission on social media must be one to connect and highlight the love and compassion for our older adults. The senior care industry must create thought provoking content that connects with the viewer. Senior Care must not highlight the beauty of the facilities but the positive impact it can have on our residents. We must shift from an industry highlighting the resort style living to an industry focusing on the people we impact. In the end the experience we provide for our clients and residents is what matters. We must never forget our services have been selected to provide care for someone’s best friend!
Beth Moeller – New York City
VP Marketing and Sales
Covid-19 has significantly impacted the senior care industry in terms of food, engagement (in terms of enrichment and health status) and hourly care.
Food: With many senior centers shuttered, the main meal for many seniors was eliminated….much like school age kids are dependent on in school lunches. This is why at the outset of the pandemic, The Griswold Home Care’s Foundation focused donations on helping our communities address meal insecurity for seniors. Interestingly, each town has organized differently to get their seniors the groceries and meals needed for sustenance.
Engagement: Senior living facilities are still figuring out the right balance between quarantines, social distancing and community engagement. I’ve heard of cognitive decline and increased social anxiety in the senior living facilities as communities strive to keep seniors safe. Beyond the walls of the senior living facilities, while many in our society are turning to digital solutions for stimulation, our oldest seniors at home are not technically inclined to take advantage of these offerings. Further, hearing impaired seniors are having a hard time with senior center remote learning activities and hearing others behind their masks so there is feeling of increased isolation. This is why our agency has focused care plans and community calendars offering ideas for engagement of the mind, body and spirit and offers focused on non-digital activities to elevate the daily experience.
Health Status: With risk of contagion from hospitalization, our HandOff remote health monitoring application in the hands of our caregivers has been a game changer for its ability to spot and proactively address potential health issues. While HandOff has been a differentiator outside of the Covid Pandemic, it has been especially important in helping our most fragile seniors remain safe at home. In that the results are visible to approved stakeholders, it has also helped families retain peace of mind that loved ones they can not visit are well cared for.
Hourly Care: Our live in care contracts are strong and hourly care is just beginning to rebound. Of course, there was reluctance to expose clients and caregivers to variable living arrangements. Our digital lead cultivation efforts continue to focus on live in. With the caregiver shortage due to school age kids at home, risk of contagion and generous unemployment practices, we have also leveraged digital marketing to recruit staffing.
David Wigodner – West Palm Beach, Florida
Regional Director of Business Development
The impact of COVID 19 in the senior care industry has been comprehensive and affected everyone. Some have seen tragic outcomes like Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing facilities who were at the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic and saw catastrophic results. Numerous Homecare, DME and other providers that support the senior population saw decrease in referrals, census, revenue, and many have had to close permanently or look to be acquired. As a result, the landscape of senior care and the way people think about retirement has been changed. People want to remain at home where they are comfortable, familiar, and not confined. Caring People has been able to adapt with progressive strategies to assist our clients and the community with initiatives that allow them to receive care and services in the comfort of their home. Our Caring On Demand, Care Management and SNF to home diversion programs are just a few that allow them to age in place and get the support they need.
The impact of COVID 19 has also played a vital role in the increase and importance of digital marketing in the senior industry. The days of walking in a hospital, SNF, ALF or even a physician’s office like we did pre covid are gone and might not return. The expanded hurdles on face-to-face business, create enormous challenges and the businesses that can pivot quickly and leverage digital marketing will survive and grow. With uncertain times, social distancing and people working remotely the use of digital strategies, incorporating a fresh website, social media campaigns, SEO are critical to reach referral sources, clients, and new customers.
I greatly appreciate all the contributions I received. I invited over 30 leaders in the senior care industry to be part of my expert roundup. Many showed interest initially, but they ultimately opted not to participate. This wasn’t overly surprising considering the senior care industry is still getting acquainted with the benefits that digital marketing can offer their businesses.
Whenever I’m invited to contribute information about digital marketing in the senior care space, I always accept. As a marketer, I believe in the power of building a brand using an online presence.
There’s no question that the onset of COVID-19 has had a major impact the world over. Companies that would never have considered allowing their employees to work remotely under any other circumstances, adapted abruptly. As challenging as it’s been to change the entire business model they’d become so comfortable with, large numbers of companies managed to do it successfully. They relied heavily on technology to stay connected with employees and customers.
Senior care agencies that fail to embrace digital marketing during this time of unprecedented opportunity are bound to fall behind the competition. The pandemic has highlighted the benefits that digital marketing offers to senior care agencies to help them reach their goals of helping others by growing their businesses. Senior care agencies and assisted living facilities will still likely welcome sales calls, especially if salespeople are willing to wear a face-covering as they arrive. However, such agencies are missing the thousands of potential leads of people that are using electronic devices to search for “home care services near me”, “assisted living facility in Brooklyn, NY”, and other related search terms.
In the interest of helping senior care agencies help others during this crucial time of need, I’m dedicated to educating the industry that I care so deeply about on how they can use digital marketing strategies to maximize the potential to grow their businesses while serving their communities.