Our Transformation in response to crisis

As the COVID19 lockdown is in place across the country it’s given me (Esther Perriam, Director of Eldernet) some time to think about what we’ve done so far, and what we might yet have to do.

It’s fair to say, that being a nationwide business based in Christchurch we’ve faced some challenges with ‘business as usual’ over the past decade. Those challenges have in many ways made the business better, stronger, more nimble, and more responsive.

Prior to all of ‘this’ Eldernet was already involved in sourcing important data for the various District Health Boards (DHBs) around New Zealand. Our online Vacancy Status Report has allowed Aged Care Services to communicate with both the public (older people, their families and support networks) and those who work in the health system to support seniors (Needs Assessment and Service Coordination teams [NASC], Social Workers, NGO teams like Alzheimer’s and Dementia NZ etc.). Every working day, across the country, hundreds of providers log into Eldernet and update their bed vacancies. This means that if someone needs a care bed they know exactly where one can be found.

The Canterbury earthquakes certainly gave us a ‘shake up’ (in more than just a physical way). Working from home became a thing, but the technology (and the intermittent power supply) didn’t make for an easy job. The stress and worry about our families and homes added to the general anxiety feel at the time – but wow – did we do some great work!

We used this time to create systems like emergency texting which allowed the DHB to rapidly communicate with all Aged Care Services, we refined our newsletter systems and we worked to ensure that regardless of what happened ‘out there’ Eldernet would continue to be a reliable and trusted source of information for seniors and those supporting them.

As time passed we streamlined and upgraded our systems. We discovered new situations that needed fast and reliable communication – storms, power cuts, landslides…it seems that Mother Nature (and sometimes human error) found ways for us to learn, develop, and enhance!

We suspected early on that COVID19 would be a critical situation for our country (it helps when you’ve got an ex-nurse AND an ex-manager of a pathology department on the team!). We had also been investigating some more ways to work remotely since the beginning of the year. A week or so before things began to ramp up we experimented with working from home and began fast uptake of Microsoft teams.

We could also see that Aged Care Services were already responding to the possible threat this virus may pose to their residents. Some services were beginning to restrict visitors, and the information from overseas was clear that seniors were at high risk.

We were able to respond quickly – we built a tool which allowed Aged Care Services to clearly display on their Eldernet pages what their current visitor status was. They could easily let people know that it was ‘business as usual’ (which for all Aged Care Services always means ‘please don’t visit if you’ve recently been unwell) or if there were restrictions in place. Once again, within hours, hundreds of care homes across the country were able to utilise the Eldernet service to help with their messaging.

Thanks to our ‘practice run’ the Eldernet team was able to deploy to dining room tables, kid’s homework spots, and even their wardrobes to being working from home well before the Level 4 restrictions were in place. We were able to do our bit to reduce the risk of community spread.

Before and during the Level 4 restrictions the Eldernet team have been speaking with DHBs across the country to offer our help and assistance. In many regions the Eldernet newsletter system is being utilised to ensure that information is being disseminated quickly. In other regions text messages have been used to collect rapid data, and in others test messages have been sent to ensure the robustness of the system should it be needed.

This is another opportunity to learn how we can serve our communities better. We hope the crisis this pandemic brings will continue to inform how we can work better, smarter, safer. We also know it will help us build an even stronger business built on stronger relationships with older people and those who support them, the teams who work at our DHBs, and those who provide services to older people.

That’s not to say this isn’t tough, we do know that there are workers out there making huge sacrifices to keep older people supported! We wish to acknowledge the care givers, nurses, cooks, cleaners and everyone else in the care homes; also the essential workers at places like supermarkets, petrol stations, and transport services who are keeping everything ‘going’.

For our fellow Cantabrians we’d like to acknowledge that this is, for many, a stressor too many. Our city has been challenged in so many ways over the last decade – hang in there, kia kaha!

This is a time of challenge that we hope brings us growth – but it’s also a time where real stress and worry about ourselves, our family and friends, our jobs and employment, and lots of time to dwell on all the things that aren’t quite right in the world can overwhelm us. Make sure you check in with those who matter to you. Remember to be kind. If it’s all too much please make use of services like 1737 (just call or text this number to speak to someone.)

About Esther Perriam

Esther Perriam
Esther Perriam is a Director of Eldernet. She’s worked in the business for over 15 years and has been lucky to visit many of the older person’s services around the country. She’s never short of an opinion on…pretty much anything. Esther really loves reading and you’ll see plenty of book reviews authored by her. As a mother of two children there’s not much free time but if there is she also enjoys cooking (for grown-ups, not the kids!) and anything beach related in her spare time. Esther has presented at conferences around New Zealand and is happy to be contacted in regards to speaking or presenting at your event.