The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

Covia, Well Connected, and Well Connected Español will host the fourth annual Creative Aging Symposium on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 9:00-11:30 PST. This virtual event invites older adults to explore and celebrate identity through a creative aging lens, with keynote speakers that include a CEO, professors of psychology and religious studies, storytellers, multi-media artists, and more.

The Creative Aging Symposium counters the commonly held belief that creativity is only the province of the young. Co-organizer Katie Wade says, “Older age presents a unique time for creative growth, should we choose to explore ourselves and community through the lens of imagination, adaptation, and innovation.”

This year, for the first time, the symposium will be presented in English and in Spanish simultaneously. Lizette Suarez, Program Director for Well Connected Español, says, “We are incredibly excited to widen the reach of this event by organizing it 100% in Spanish. Aging is a universal topic and we are thrilled to introduce the Creative Aging concept to the Spanish speaking community.” Closed captions will also be available, and audio descriptions of visual content will be provided for those with vision loss.

Keynote speakers for the 2021 Creative Aging Symposium include EngAGE founder Tim Carpenter, multidisciplinary artists Gabri Christa and Mabel Valdiviezo, photographer S. Renee Jones, psychologists Dr. Angélica Ojeda García and Dr. Ricardo Carillo, and poet Gregory Pond. Topics include how identity is shaped by community, how one’s sense of self evolves over a lifetime, and how people make meaning out of life’s joys, tragedies, and everyday moments.

Though many of the speakers explore creativity in their jobs and hobbies, the event planners assure attendees that they do not need to identify as creative or artistic. “Through creative demonstrations, interactive experiences, and inspiring voices, you will discover new insights into the distinct gifts you bring to the world.”

The suggested donation to register is $10. The registration page in English can be found here; the registration page in Spanish is here

The Creative Aging Symposium is hosted by the Covia Community Services programs Well Connected Español and Well Connected, and older adults active in our programs.

For more information, including speakers and schedule, visit www.creativeagingsymposium.org or call 877-797-7299.

Most of this article as well as the accompanying image originally appeared in the Spring Lake Village resident newsletter for January 2021. Shared with permission.

Spring Lake Village residents responded to the challenge from the Outreach Committee in December to support The Living Room with generous contributions of $28,500.

The Spring Lake Village Outreach Committee started 20 years ago in 2001 with the mission to support charitable activities in the Sonoma County community through direct services and fundraising. The committee limits annual fundraisers to three per year. In 2020, residents focused on the specific needs of housing (raising money for Habitat for Humanity, Sonoma County), childhood education (the Head Start program in Sonoma County), and hunger and homelessness (The Living Room).

When the pandemic hit, The Living Room, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women and children who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless, transitioned to a crisis center. The SLV donations will be used to provide hot take-out meals at a pick-up window, taking meals into community shelters, and providing information services to women and children in need of help in Sonoma County.

All of these services are provided in a manner that strictly observes social distancing and minimizes exposure to the volunteers and those in need in these vulnerable times. “We are overcome with the generosity of Spring Lake Village residents,” writes Director Rebecca Rogoway. “Thank you all, each and every one of you.”

 

Dr. Timothy Gieseke, who served as the Medical Director at Spring Lake Village from its opening in 1986 until 2019, sat down on Monday, December 14 for an interview with Laura Darling, Covia’s VP of Communications and Spiritual Care, to give his perspective on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Gieseke is a member and past President and Board Member of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine (CALTCM). The full interview is available online here.

Dr. Gieseke gave an overview on how these novel vaccines were developed and how they work. Using a well-established technique that has been in use for the past 10 years for cancer therapies, scientists created a messenger RNA, or mRNA vaccine for SARS CoV2. Not using the COVID virus itself, the mRNA vaccine “creates a sideshow, if you will…so the body sees it as a foreign protein and makes antibodies against it. So that when the virus actually does infect us, or attempt to affect us, very quickly it’s identified as something foreign to be destroyed and the virus is destroyed.”

Like every other therapy approved by the FDA, Dr. Gieseke explained that the COVID vaccines went through three trial phases. “Physicians get interested in the phase three study, which is where they had 43,000 volunteers” – 30% of whom were from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and 45% between the ages of 45 to 85.

After a phase 3 trial lasting two weeks longer than the usual period and review by committees, including the Vaccine Related Biologicals Products Advisory Committee (or VRB PAC), “at a federal level, they felt that this vaccine was effective at a 95% level, which is really amazing.”

It’s effective. But is it safe? Dr. Gieseke explained that although “this was a rapid review, rapid approval process, but the actual scientific process was the same.”

“There’s things that we don’t know about this, but that’s true of everything in medicine, that’s new,” he says, “But the potential value of this vaccine is so large that I can tell you I’m signing up, all my associates at Spring Lake, Drs. Greene and Rao are signing up. I had another colleague say, ‘Where can I get it?’ And I can tell you, physicians are just really excited that this vaccine is available.”

A review of the side effects did not raise any alarms for him. “I mean, there are always problems with these medications and there’s problems even after you get your emergency use, but the common ones were the ones you’d expect,” he said. Side effects were similar to those of the flu vaccine: soreness at the injection site, or a systemic immune response, “feeling like you’re getting the flu, because that’s part of your immune system, how it gets rid of the flu and actually SARS CoV2 as well.” Dr. Gieseke said these side effects were found in less than 3% of trial participants after receiving the first injection, and less than 7% of people after receiving the second.

The vaccines are given in two doses because “you get more effectiveness and better safety if you split the doses,” Dr. Gieseke explained. “So rather than giving a big dose all at once, you give a tolerable dose and then you repeat it three weeks later.”

“I think it’s effective and safe and it’s something that when your turn comes I would be, ‘I’m gonna be the first in line,’ quite frankly,” Dr. Gieseke says.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved, and the Moderna vaccine is not far behind. Dr. Gieseke thinks the Moderna vaccine may be the one more likely to be given to Covia residents and staff. “The Moderna vaccine which is an mRNA vaccine has very similar 94.7% effectiveness, differs in that it does not require the cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine does. So it’s more like a normal vaccine, has a better shelf life.”

So when will we all be vaccinated? “Hard to know,” Dr. Gieseke says. “Experts are predicting anything from May, June, to more likely the Fall, September, something like that, because these companies are selling to the world. It’s not just the United States.”

In the meantime, Dr. Gieseke says we need to continue to follow public health guidelines – including wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and enclosed spaces, and cleaning. “What we know about SARS CoV2 is public health actually works. But you really have to practice it effectively and I’ll just give you a couple principles that you may not want to hear:

“Now that medical masks are available, that’s what you should be wearing. And the reason medical masks are more effective than the cloth masks is, they actually have electrostatic forces that trap the virus embedded within them,” he says. Dr. Gieseke reuses his masks, storing them in a paper bag to allow them to dry out and be used again.

“Number two: Always use a mask when you’re outside your apartment because you just don’t know… all it takes is one person to not mask to blow the whole thing open, and I see that happen all the time.”

Number three: “follow public health guidance. So right now we’re on lockdown. Because in December, every week we’re doubling and tripling the prevalence of COVID. And what we know is the more common the COVID is in the community, the more likely we are to get COVID.”

Dr. Gieseke says that, even with the vaccine, “continue to do all the public health measures until public health says this no longer makes sense.”

Dr. Gieseke does have words of encouragement for everyone who has been dealing with the limitations imposed by COVID over the past year: “Number one, this is not forever.”

“I think the vaccines is going to allow us to have a more normal life, even if the virus has the ability to change like influenza and becomes a persistent problem,” he says. “I don’t think we’re going to see it out of control, like it is right now…Going forward, I think this will be a part of our lives. But I think it’s going to be a manageable part of our lives.”

Although the vaccine is good news, for right now his guidance is, “mask as much as you can. That’s kind of where you live at this point in time.” But, Dr. Gieseke assures us, “this too will pass.”

Covia has been ranked as one of the 2020 Best Workplaces for Aging Services by Great Place to Work® and FORTUNE magazine. Covia took the number 17 spot on the list, the second time it has been rated in the top 50.

Kevin Gerber, President and CEO of Covia, says, “We have always been proud of Covia’s employees for their excellence. It is our employees who make us a Great Place to Work. We want to thank them for this honor, and for being part of Covia.”

In July, Covia administered the Trust Index survey, designed to measure aspects of trust in the organization, such as respect, fairness, pride, camaraderie, and credibility. With a participation rate of 94% of employees, Covia received an overall Trust Index score of 75%, and 83% of employees said Covia is a great place to work.

“Having a response rate of 94% of employees makes this year different,” says Gerber. “We can feel confident that we have a clear picture of our strengths and opportunities as an employer of choice.”

Covia scored highest on the statements “I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community” (88%); “When you join the company, you are made to feel welcome” (87%); “I’m proud to tell others I work here” (86%); and “This is a physically safe place to work” (86%) – especially notable this year as COVID-19 has disproportionately affected senior living.

The Best Workplaces for Aging Services stand out for excelling in a competitive industry. “In addition to physical safety, the overall well-being of our employees is important to us,” says Prab Brinton, VP of Human Resources. “Along with ensuring appropriate levels of personal protective equipment (PPE), we created an Essential Support program to help with unexpected costs, adjust and accommodate time off needs, provide additional funds, and help make sure our employees were finding ways to recharge.” The program, which started in April, was developed based on feedback from more than 600 employees.

“Everyone knows the greater cause as to why we’re here and that is for the residents,” one employee commented. “Especially in the strange times that we’re all experiencing, I have witnessed how everyone pulls together to make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for the residents and us as employees.”

“The value of creating great workplaces for all is a clear competitive edge in the Aging Services sector,” said Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. “When organizations like Covia treat their own people with care and respect, you can expect their staff to treat your loved ones with that same care.”

“The effect of engaged employees has magnified in the aging services sector, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights, the senior care data analytics company for Great Place to Work. “We have found that organizations that have maintained or increased employee engagement during this year’s challenges have been able to be more resilient, provide enhanced care, and perform better.”

The Best Workplaces for Aging Services™ is one of a series of rankings by Great Place to Work and FORTUNE based on employee feedback from Great Place to Work-Certified™ organizations.

All five Covia Communities are among the 21% of U.S. skilled nursing facilities that have been recognized as a Best Nursing Home for 2020-21 by U.S. News & World Report.

The communities received Best Nursing Homes status by achieving a rating of “High Performing,” the highest possible rating, for Short-Term Rehabilitation, Long-Term Care, or both. Canterbury Woods in Pacific Grove, St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, and San Francisco Towers all received the recognition for Short Term Rehabilitation. Webster House Health Center in Palo Alto was recognized for its Long Term Care. And Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa received the honor for both Short Term and Long Term care.

U.S. News gives the designation of Best Nursing Home only to those homes that satisfy U.S. News’s assessment of the appropriate use of key services and consistent performance in quality measures. This year, to accompany the new ratings, nursing home profile pages were updated to include a patient safety summary that reflects COVID-19 data alongside other measurements of safety and related advice on choosing a home or facility amidst the pandemic.

“I am so proud of all our Covia teams and their leadership, especially their implementation of the infection prevention processes that resulted in exceptional resident outcomes during this challenging pandemic,” says Cynthia Shelby, Covia’s Regional Director of Quality and Care, RN, RAC-CT.

All of the communities noted the extraordinary care and efforts given by their team members. Max Brodsky, Health Care Administrator at San Francisco Towers, says, “As I make my rounds checking in with the residents staying at the Health Center, one thing I hear over and over is ‘You have the most wonderful staff working here. They are kind, hard-working, and always do their best.’  It’s our culture of respect and integrity, and staff who embrace our philosophy that makes us the best and a five star facility.”

At St. Paul’s Towers, Health Care Administrator Connie Yuen says, “Our staff works from the kindness and love in their hearts. We’ve been told time and time again we do not work with patients, we work with residents that become a part of our family that we love and care for. The staff go above and beyond to connect with residents and take it a step further by providing updates, photos and spontaneous phone calls to give loved ones peace of mind.” Executive Director Mary Linde adds, “We at SPT are delighted to be among the best nursing homes in the country.  But it comes as no surprise because we see the care, and the relationships that drive that care, on a daily basis. I believe the staff in our SPT SNF are, indeed, among the best in the industry.”

Kris Hermanson, Health Care Administrator at Spring Lake Village which was rated as High Performing for both Short Term and Long Term care, says, “It’s satisfying knowing you are giving quality care to our residents who deserve and have earned it!”

Now in its 11th year, the U.S. News Best Nursing Homes ratings and profiles offer comprehensive information about care, safety, health inspections, staffing and more for nearly all of the nation’s 15,000-plus nursing homes. The Best Nursing Homes ratings reflect U.S. News’ exclusive analysis of publicly available data using a methodology defined by U.S. News that evaluates factors that it has determined most greatly impact patient and resident care, safety, and outcomes.   

“U.S. News strives to provide access to information that allows consumers to make educated decisions on all types of care,” said Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis at U.S. News. “Updating the profiles to include a patient safety summary that highlights COVID-19 data paired with other measures of care arms families, caregivers and patients with the information needed to make a decision that keeps safety at the highest priority.” 

The Best Nursing Home finder features ratings on both long-term and short-term care. The Long-Term Care Rating aims to provide prospective residents who need help with daily activities, and their families, with analysis and information regarding the quality of care provided by nursing homes. The rating includes data on staffing, success in preventing ER visits and pneumonia vaccination rates, among other metrics. The short-term rating incorporates measures of quality including consistency of registered nurse staffing, use of antipsychotic drugs and success in preventing falls.

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A digital news and information company focused on Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars and News USNews.com provides consumer advice, rankings and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all stages of life. More than 40 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C. For more information behind both U.S. News ratings please refer to the FAQ.

Covia and Jobvite have been recognized for their partnership in talent acquisition by the 2020 Brandon Hall Group Human Capital Management (HCM) Excellence Awards. The two organizations were awarded Silver for Best Advance in Talent Acquisition Process, and will be recognized at the HCM Excellence Conference in January, 2021.

For the past three years, Jobvite, a comprehensive talent acquisition suite that offers a marketing-inspired approach to recruiting, has collaborated with Covia to streamline Covia’s workflow and automate recruiting tasks. Covia also worked with Jobvite to launch a new career site in an effort to better market company culture and simplify the application process.

“By integrating with Jobvite, we were able to save a minimum of 600 recruiting hours per year with the HRIS integration, and elevate the talent acquisition team as a strategic service for attracting higher quality candidates,” said Prab Brinton, Covia VP of Human Resources. “Jobvite has reimagined our recruiting efforts and made us nimbler and more effective, and I’m so thrilled that our partnership is being honored by Brandon Hall Group.”

“We are so proud Covia is being recognized for its work, and the Jobvite team is excited to be along for their talent acquisition improvement journey,” said Aman Brar, Jobvite CEO. “Covia has always strived to hire the best candidates who support its mission of cultivating healthy communities for aging adults. We just made it easier for them to engage with a larger pool of high-quality applicants and achieve their talent goals.”

Since the inception of its partnership with Jobvite, Covia has achieved a 33% increase in applicant numbers and a remarkable 90% automation of the hiring process using Jobvite services, including digitization, easy-apply, AI technologies, and more.

“This award shows that the Covia organization is open to new ideas that will help move our business forward in a constantly changing world,” said Wendy Dugan, Covia’s HR Business Partner for Talent Acquisition. “Our culture continues to evolve and adjust to new environments and I’m excited that we are able to stay on top of our game and recruit top talent.”

Having an automated recruitment process in place before the start of the pandemic has allowed Covia to continue recruiting without missing a beat. “We didn’t have to think about a ‘socially distanced’ application process as we had already implemented it with Jobvite’s easy-apply, electronic screening forms, automated calendaring and video interviews. With these systems in place, we didn’t lose any time as the pandemic created new job openings,” said Brinton.

“Building the system before the pandemic was invaluable,” said Dugan. “From my vantage point, it really has been business as usual when it comes to recruiting.”

The HCM Excellence Awards is the most prestigious and longest-running recognition program in human capital management. Brandon Hall Group’s industry-standard awards program recognizes organizations that successfully deployed HCM programs achieving superior and measurable results.

Award entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation, and overall measurable benefits. A full list of the winners for the HCM Excellence Awards is available here.

In addition to receiving this award, Covia is presenting at Recruiter Nation Live, sponsored by Jobvite, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. To learn more about Jobvite, visit www.jobvite.com.

A 3rd generation San Franciscan, Carol DeVincenzi was hoping to stay in her home for as long as possible, but knew that when the time came for her next move, she would choose a non-profit Life Plan Community in the city that she had called home for most of her life. When she started looking and found San Francisco Towers, she knew it was the place for her. “It has the most amenities like air conditioning and ample elevators, and has such beautifully designed apartments,” Carol says.

Carol had friends who had set up charitable gift annuities, and they were very pleased with both the income and the impact of the tax deduction. She says, “With the current rates, I thought this would be a good source of income and an opportunity to support the Circle of Friends Resident Assistance Fund.”

Carol had always felt the call to help those in need, especially older people who could no longer support themselves. She remembers, “When my mother was in an Assisted Living community near the end of her life, I remember other residents that had to leave because they had run out of money. I remember feeling so terrible about it and wishing there was something I could do to help. Donating to the Circle of Friends gives me a chance to help.”

Charitable Gift Annuity: The Gift That Gives Back

A Charitable Gift Annuity can provide stable income in unstable times — and provide a legacy of support for your community or favorite program. It’s a gift that pays you back.

You can establish a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) with the Covia Foundation with cash or stock and create fixed, stable income for your lifetime. Because the payment rate is fixed based on your age, your income never changes. As an example, the payment rate for someone aged 81 is 6.7%. Plus, a portion of your income payment could be tax free. If you establish a gift annuity with stock you’ve held for a number of years, you can bypass the capital gains tax you would owe if you simply sold the stock. Ultimately, the remainder in your CGA will benefit the community or program you designate.

For information or assistance on establishing a CGA, contact Katharine Miller, Covia Foundation Executive Director, at 925.956.7414 or kmiller@covia.org

*This article was originally posted in the Fall 2020 edition of Community Matters 

As Covia communities and programs navigate the rapidly changing conditions and restrictions this year, we are grateful that we have resilient residents, participants, staff, and leadership that keep our communities moving forward. Challenging circumstances have brought people from across the organization together in new ways, encouraging teamwork and a sense that we truly are all in this together.

The Life Enrichment Directors across Covia Communities have been meeting monthly to share their upcoming plans and find ways to collaborate and share their virtual activities with residents of other communities. Alex Gerasimov, Covia’s Project Manager for resident experience, says, “In this time, our Life Enrichment teams united to support one another and to learn about each other’s best practices on keeping residents and staff engaged and involved in meaningful programs that enhance their health and wellness.”

Residents of Canterbury Woods and Webster House meet together on Zoom for weekly lectures and discussion groups on current events and world travel. Ania Spiering, Life Enrichment Director at Webster House, shares, “Both programs engage residents in conversation, which keeps it lively and interesting. It is wonderful to see people coming together and utilizing the possibilities that technology provides.” The two communities also share musical programs with each other. Every week, a Canterbury Woods resident shares a recorded concert, and in return, Lily Godsoe, the Webster House chaplain, offers a flute and meditation session.

Other communities have taken advantage of the virtual space to invite residents from all communities to join their ongoing events, creating more enrichment opportunities.  St. Paul’s Towers invited residents of the other Covia communities to join its sponsored webinar about water issues facing Northern California, offered as part of the UC Retiree Learning Series.  San Francisco Towers is also opening up its weekly lecture series to all communities. In September, the guest lecturer was Dr. Tammy Duong on dealing with loneliness and depression during the isolation of the pandemic. Spring Lake Village, known for its award-winning active wellness and fitness programs, shared all of its fitness videos with the other Covia communities so all residents can stay active in the comfort of their homes.

*This article was originally posted in the Fall 2020 edition of Community Matters

When Mia Lang first started looking at Life Plan Communities, she knew it was just exploration, and she wasn’t ready to make a transition. After all, she had a full life with friends and social activities and still worked part time as a hemodialysis nurse at UCSF at age 78 after retiring from a full time nursing career at the UCSF Medical Center at age 60. And then she looked at Spring Lake Village.

“As soon as I visited Spring Lake Village, I knew that was it,” she said. “I could not have chosen a better place to spend this chapter of my life. Living here is fulfilling, it’s community, there is nothing lacking. We all go through whatever we’re facing together; there’s so much support.”

Her childhood was marked by the war years on the border between the former Czechoslovakia and Austria. After fleeing to a refugee camp in Austria, her family moved to Germany as the war ended. She went into nursing because “you chose something that was practical that you could make a living at” and set out to travel the world. She worked as a nurse in Germany, Switzerland, England, and, eventually, the United States.

An interesting community with a wide variety of people has always been of interest to her. “When I first came to New York, I found an apartment in what was then Spanish Harlem,” she said. “It was only $60 a month but I loved the variety of cultures. I was so curious because I came from a background where everyone was the same.”

She was eventually drawn to the Bay Area because of her love of San Francisco, its variety of cultures, and its proximity to nature. The natural surroundings of Sonoma County and the regional parks were part of what drew her to Spring Lake Village.

“The people at Spring Lake Village are a real community,” she says. “My friends from the Bay Area who visit are very impressed and envy me for the quality of my life here. There are pockets of friendship here for so many different interests and activities — and people are warm and welcoming.”

It is that sense of community that was at the heart of Mia’s recent decision to update her estate plan and leave a gift to the Covia Foundation. “My nieces and nephews are all doing fine, and I’ve loved living at Spring Lake Village,” she reflected. “I want to leave my estate to the Covia Foundation to benefit this wonderful community.”

So after a lifetime of caring for others in nursing, Mia’s legacy gift will be able to continue caring for the community of people that makes Spring Lake Village such a special place.

For information on making a legacy gift in your will or estate plans, contact Katharine Miller, Covia Foundation Executive Director, at kmiller@covia.org or 925.956.7414

Covia Foundation Heritage Society

The Covia Foundation Honor Roll of Giving at each Life Plan Community celebrates those who support Covia communities and programs with charitable gifts. The Heritage Society section of the Honor Roll celebrates those who plan a legacy gift by including the Foundation in their planned gifts, estate plans or wills.

If you have made such a provision, please let us know so that we may add your name to the Heritage Society of the Covia Foundation Honor Roll. Contact Julie Hoerl, Covia Foundation Development Manager, at jhoerl@covia.org or 925.956.7393.

*This article was originally posted in the Fall 2020 edition of Community Matters