Moving from Fear to Knowledge to Action: A Pandemic Playbook

As we rang in a new decade, the economy was thriving, employment was at nearly 96.5%, and longevity was predictable for many who embrace a healthy lifestyle. Weeks later, a serious respiratory infection was reported to the World Health Organization by China. The rapid viral spread, lack of effective treatment, and voluminous loss of life rocked the world, and the most vulnerable individuals were identified as older adults and persons with pre-existing health conditions.

LeadingAge represents more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. COVID-19 impacted our members with immediate and overwhelming challenges in crisis management, supply chain collapse, infection control, and staffing. Fear, anxiety, social isolation, stress, and grief were pervasive. Long neglected and underfunded by government, aging services provider organizations were not prepared for the scope and severity of a global pandemic. As a result, we grappled with this debilitating illness and endured devastating losses of life. We cannot perpetuate unpreparedness; the planning for any future pandemic-like event must begin now.

The overarching goal of the Pandemic Playbook is to ensure that aging services providers are not caught by surprise again. To that end, this Playbook documents the present, identifies what was done well and what can be done more effectively, captures lessons learned, shares best practices, and better positions providers of older adult housing and long-term services and supports to prepare for and mitigate the impact of a pandemic. Though many topics and resources reference the Coronavirus or COVID-19, the predominant content of this Playbook is applicable to any pandemic-like event.

There are 10 chapters in this Pandemic Playbook, covering hundreds of topics and issues that have affected our members and those they serve over the past several months. In the first 9 chapters, topics are addressed somewhat generically, so that the guidance and resources are applicable to many types of long-term services and support providers. The Pandemic Playbook chapters are the following:

  • Introduction
  • Management and Crisis Intervention
  • Clinical Impact and Infection Control
  • Financial Impact and Strategies
  • Transparent Communications—Internal and External
  • Technology Applications and Telehealth
  • Workforce Management and Support
  • Wellness of Staff and Residents—Physical and Psychological
  • Reopen, Recover, Reimagine: Moving Forward Together
  • Provider-Specific Guidance

In addition, an extensive compilation of member stories, toolkits, communication templates, and human resource document templates are included in an appendix. The web-based production of this Playbook enables it to be a living resource, capable of routine updating as data, evidence-based research, preventative measures, treatment, and vaccine availability expand.

Before reading the Pandemic Playbook, take a few minutes to watch the “Smiling Under our Masks,” a film commissioned by the Jewish Home Family, Rockleigh, NJ, to honor and recognize heroic staff. During the struggle with COVID-19, this staff of more than 500 individuals came together to do everything they could to save their elders and support one another. While not every team member is depicted in the film, the story is of each and every one of them, the story of courage, determination, strength, and heroism.

Nancy C. Hooks,  CAE, MPA
Vice President, State and Affiliate Relations
Project Director, LeadingAge Pandemic Playbook


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