Owning a Senior Living Facility in the time of Covid 19

Work Setting: Senior Living Facility

Owning a Senior Living Facility in the time of Covid 19
Kate Shaw

Note: Kate Shaw, MSW ’05, is the owner and manager of Emerson Senior Living Center in Madison, WI. A small residential facility, it provides assisted and supported living services. Mel Morgenbessr, the School of Social Work’s Director of Alumni Relations and Development, spoke with Kate about how the Corona Virus has affected her work.

Kate: Yes such an usual time and one that none of us ever anticipated. It hit so fast. On March 14th I asked if any staff wanted to live in during the pandemic to stop potential community exposure. No one was interested so I had to lay them off. I made the decision to work solo, with the help of my sister and her husband, retired teachers who too are isolating in place at Emerson She helps cook and he’s the handyman type so it’s working well so far.

Naturally, I’d hope not to be working 24/7 for a long-time, but under the circumstances I know I’m fortunate to have a home, plus I’m enjoying gardening since we have 1.3 acres here so I’m trying to focus on the positives. With such a vulnerable population, we don’t go to stores or anywhere. We use delivery or drive up curbside where they put items in our trunk where we don’t need to get out or have to roll our window down at all.

Recently the needs of 3 residents required a greater level of care and they transferred to another facility. Now we have only 4 seniors, which, given the circumstances, works well. While all need supervision and someone with them in the house at all times in case of an emergency, they are ambulatory with walkers. They seem pretty content and willing to self isolate to stay safe. While it’s been hard on everyone not to be able to go anywhere (We can’t use public toilets), we got a pop-up roadside tent and a portable commode allowing us to take longer drives with the residents.

I look forward to when things improve and we can resume a more normal life with our residents. Increasing our numbers and providing the types of enrichment and activities (like going to the Union Terrace) that our residents enjoy.