A Frontline Perspective from Assisted Living in Ann Arbor

Vibrant Life’s facility for assisted living in Ann Arbor has a new Executive Director. Angie Hanson had no idea she would have to start her assisted living in ann arbor new career managing a world-wide pandemic. However, her experience and management style is enhancing our Ann Arbor community and bringing the staff and residents together in these strange times.

We caught up with her to talk about her position, what a typical day is like, and how things have changed because of the quarantine.

“I officially started a couple days before the shelter in place order, so I worked from home and got tested for Covid-19. When it came back negative I could go into the facility.” Hanson said.

She is not new to the world of senior care, having worked in the field for over 14 years. Hanson originally went to school for teaching and took a job in assisted living while finishing college. She connected with the residents and her co-workers and pivoted her career. “I am still educating people every day, just in a different capacity.”

RelatedWhat’s Happening inside Senior Communities During the Virus Crisis

A Typical Day for an Assisted Living Executive Director

During the coronavirus pandemic, nothing is really typically. However, Hanson’s daily duties are always about communication. She walks the facility, touching base with staff and residents. She checks in at least twice a day with each department, such as dining, maintenance, and activities. Hanson is always monitoring the facility’s census (number of residents), planning for upcoming staff training, and communicating changes.  

“I need to know how each department is doing and what they need. Daily operations take up most of my time. I am also in charge of hiring new staff, budgets, receipts, things like that.” Hanson explains.

The best results always happen out of trust.

You have to build relationships.”

Angie Hanson, Executive Director Vibrant Life Superior Township

Hanson takes a team approach to making decisions and solving problems. For example, if a resident develops depression, she will talk to the family. the nurse, the activities director, and even the dining staff. They will all provide their input on what each area can do to help the resident. It might be more communication with their family. making a favorite dish, doing a craft, going outside, or a medication consideration. The solution is always a team effort.

“I don’t make decisions by myself. I consider the whole team. It’s my job to figure out how to best communicate information,” Hanson explained.

How Assisted Living in Ann Arbor has Changed Due to Covid-19

The facility is made up of separate buildings that are called Lodges. Now, especially during the virus crisis, each lodge is isolated and working, more or less, independently of each other, rather than together.  Certain staff are assigned to specific lodges and only work in one building. Residents now eat in their rooms, but Hanson and her team came up with a creative solution that makes this shift easier for everyone.

They have set up TV tray tables in the doorways of the residents’ rooms. This way, they can still see each other down the hall, staff can interact with them, and assist the residents with their meals when needed. “We have even able to call bingo this way, so that has been fun.” Hanson explained.

They are still celebrating birthdays and having fun wherever they can.

Health Department Assistance

The health department in Ann Arbor has provide critical support. They have assigned a nurse and physician to the facility. Hanson can all them anytime with questions,  get resources, or to develop solutions to new issues.

Hanson revealed that one of the hardest things about the current situation is fear. “Our staff is fearful that they may have it (coronavirus) and expose others. They work here all day and then go home to their families. They worry they will expose their families. We are all taking a lot of time  reassuring each other and we know we are in this together. When we go home we sanitize and shower up.” 

It is very hard on essential workers because not only are they at work providing needed services, they have the added duty of reassuring their own families and keeping them calm.

Assisted Living in Ann Arbor

“We can be fearful and nervous, but this is bad for our bodies – too much cortisol is created.  I reassure them, and they motivate them to stay positive.  It is so cool to watch how everyone is coming together.”

With the use of masks inside the facility (all staff are wearing them at all times) it has posed some problems for residents. Many residents who are hard of hearing rely on lip reading to understand staff, so that has been a challenge. Memory care patients don’t always recognize the staff either, because of the masks.

Finding the Good

In additional to the health protocols that have been put in place, Hanson reveals that the biggest positive change that has developed is more one-on-one time with the residents. Staff has had more time to sit and color, share pictures, hear stories, and just really connect.

“It’s has been fun watching the staff interact with our residents. They are doing creative things, taking walks, enjoying the courtyard, and even eating with the residents – at a distance, of course.”

Vibrant Life has been utilizing technology a lot more and residents have been utilizing zoom,  skype and facetime to talk with families.  Many of them have been able to connect to a family member they haven’t talked with in a long time. 

Hanson admitted, “I can’t believe we haven’t been utilizing these available services all along, but we will continue to do so in the future, even when the ban is lifted.”

The dining staff have been making more favorite dishes and utilizing some of the residents’ family recipes.

The New Universal Worker

Due to isolating lodges and new protocols, each staff members has really pitched in to take on more tasks, many of which are new to them. They are forming new ideas and ways to do things together differently. “They are really getting excited about it and have great ideas. I’d like this to be the new model on what we are doing by enhancing the teamwork approach we already have in place.” Hanson explained. 

An Outpouring of Support

Hanson gushed about how caring and thankful the residents’ family members have been. One family has been shipping candy to the staff. Another one bought lunch for the whole community. They have also received countless kind words, emails, and messages of gratitude and encouragement.

“When you go through hardships this sort of thing really shines.”  

Are Assisted Living Facilities Taking New Residents? 

Yes, they are. As you can imagine, there are strict protocols put in place. The first being a required Covid-19 test. Only residents who test negative are allowed to move in at this point.

Vibrant Life Superior is also actively hiring employees, with the same requirements.

In addition, this facility has one entire lodge that is ready to assist with hospital overflow. It is has been sanitized and closed to current staff and residents. The types of patients and level of care has not be determined at this point, but the Health Department is aware that the space is available if needed.

Would You Like More Information?

Vibrant Life is providing Virtual Tours of all 4 of our locations. If you or a loved one is in need of assisted living, senior living, or memory care, we can provide the answers and resources to answer your questions.

You can visit our website for information on each community.

We are also updating our site regularly with any new information about coronavirus that is urgent or helpful to our staff, families, residents, and the community in general. You can find that information here.

Additional Resources

Musical Minute – Social Distancing with Song!

Message to Families of Vibrant Life Senior Living Residents from Dean Solden