Dear Optima Residents, Employees, and Stakeholders,
On behalf of all of us at Optima Living, Happy New Year!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR INCREDIBLE SUPPORT AS WE BATTLED COVID-19 IN 2020. TOGETHER, WE ARE GETTING THROUGH THIS.
2020 was a memorable year, for all the reasons we know. In mid-March, a once-in-a-century event, COVID-19, hit the entire world and went on to disrupt our lives. Thankfully, as the year came to a close, a vaccine was discovered that gave some hope for normalcy in 2021.
Currently, residents and staff at several of our communities have received vaccinations, and we look forward to ensuring all residents and employees, regardless of where they’re located, have the same protection. Looking back at the past year, we would like to share and reflect on what 2020 meant for us and what insights we gained from this time.
First and foremost, the power of human resilience triumphed as employees connected to our core mission: Let us welcome you home. Despite some sad and sometimes even tragic situations happening around them, employees went to work every day to look after our most vulnerable. In turn, Optima Living leaders worked hard to provide the necessary support and resources, ensuring their safety and the safety of all residents.
We had 93-year-old residents learn how to Zoom, FaceTime, and use other technology we never before imagined possible during this period. We saw firsthand the generosity and kindness from businesses and the general public; whether it was dropping off flowers for residents, families standing outside serenading our residents, or in the early days of COVID-19, suppliers donating masks to ensure we had sufficient supply.
Second, as an organization and as leaders, we had to pivot. In early April, we met as a leadership team to strategize and make some key decisions that would guide us through the rest of the year. We realized that the crisis allowed us to connect around our common purpose and reinforce our values and commitment to residents. Here are some of the key achievements:
Ensured safety always came first: We prioritized science above all else and focused on ensuring the safest environment for all residents regardless of the care environment. This meant that early on, Independent Living residences could benefit from the portfolio-wide clinical knowledge gained in Assisted Living, Mental Health and/or Long Term care on maintaining the health and safety of our residents and employees. Infection control protocols included implementing all recommendations from the Public Health Authorities and often exceeding those guidelines, such as: Universal masking for care partners; Enhanced and active screening for the virus; Limiting access to essential visitors only; Enhanced cleaning and sanitation; Infection control and outbreak plans; and Ensuring adequate supplies of PPE.
Recorded extremely low numbers of positive cases: As a result of careful and conservative management and a strong clinical approach that closely followed the science, all Optima Living communities were COVID free until October 2020. Since then, we have had three sites with active cases, all but two were cleared by end of year. We have one site that is currently under outbreak that is being actively managed.
Invested in Web and Social Media to reach out and connect: We revamped our website to better communicate with potential residents, influencers, and external stakeholders. We partnered with a marketing agency to manage our social channels and invested in communicating about our operating philosophy regularly. Further, we launched monthly virtual coffee chats in April, which continue now as successful outreach initiatives.
Invested in knowledge to maintain excellence in service and care delivery: With the Universities of Alberta and Manitoba, we created knowledge partnerships. By doing this, we leveraged their knowledge and our know-how of the market to feature webinars on important topics for seniors such as healthy aging, dealing with Alzheimer’s, surviving loneliness during COVID. And we did it all through our new YouTube channel.
Amplified Our Voice: We communicated and then communicated some more. We extensively communicated with residents, employees, and investors using many different methods to engage and get out our messages, such as virtual employee town hall meetings and regular website updates.
Built Community Leadership: We assumed leadership roles in B.C. and Alberta with the Ministries of Health around COVID-19 policies at our sites as well as actively participated in industry associations at the executive and task force levels to ensure our voice was heard.
Third, we stayed the course. The days and months were long, and we often discussed and debated our strategy and the path set out in April., But we stayed the course and remained committed. Looking back, it was the right decision. By staying true to the Optima Way, we maintained our purpose and values.
As 2021 begins, there is some light starting to shine. Our industry has forever changed. Over time, we believe this change will be positive since it will drive government resources to the sector. Such a positive change will also drive change for operators and require even more innovation and better ways of delivering services. From all of this, residents, their families, and employees will be the beneficiaries.
We look forward to a time sometime this year when we can see each other freely again and make those meaningful human connections.
Stay Safe. Be Well. Take Care.
Farid Damji | Co-Founder & Principal