The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with the Johns Hopkins schools of Nursing and Medicine and in partnership with the Baltimore City Health Department, is launching two free online educational courses for administrators, owners, and managers of assisted living and senior housing communities to help prepare for and respond to COVID-19. During the next phases of the pandemic, including the current surge and the impending vaccine rollout, assisted living and senior housing communities serving high-risk populations continue to be on the frontlines of COVID-19 emergency response.
The self-paced, web-based courses, made available on Coursera.org, are the latest in a series from the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Training Initiative and part of its COVID-19 Resources for Practitioners. This initiative, launched in May with a contact tracing course that has seen more than 1 million enrollments, offers expertise and practical guidance from the top-ranked school of public health in the United States and other experts to anticipate and meet pandemic-response needs where people live, learn, and work. The courses were developed with LeadingAge, a policy and advocacy organization for providers of aging services.
"Operators of assisted living and senior housing communities need coherent and consistent guidance on how to respond to COVID-19, a disease that poses a high risk to older people, given their age and health status. These operators face an unprecedented number of challenges trying to keep residents and staff safe while also trying to foster well-being," said Morgan Jane Katz, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The courses we designed provide a central platform for these administrators, owners, and managers to learn best practices for developing and implementing a comprehensive emergency response."
Both courses include expert lectures, guest interviews, links to additional reading and resources, and assignments. The courses focus on best practices and guidance for learners to acquire immediate takeaways to actively change their community's policies and implement lessons from the assignments to keep residents and staff safe. Both courses cover infection and outbreak prevention, staffing considerations, communicating with stakeholders, promoting resident and staff well-being, and leveraging health departments and other agency resources. The assisted living course also covers testing, contact tracing, and cohorting; the senior housing course focuses on housing operations, including critical tasks to protect residents in these settings.
There are thousands of senior housing communities in the United States, many of which are small, under-resourced and/or lack robust emergency response policies.
"These courses provide a vehicle for administrators and operators to review current practices, design new policies, and implement changes to create safer and more supportive environments," said Sarah L. Szanton, a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing endowed professor for Health Equity and Social Justice and director of the school's Center for Innovative Care in Aging. "Our goal is to get the information to communities that need it most."
Szanton added that the senior housing course focuses on federally assisted senior housing because "those communities often serve residents who are low-income and employ staff who are at highest risk."
The Baltimore City Health Department has been actively involved with developing the courses, incorporating decades of experience in managing and supporting Baltimore's congregant living facilities into these trainings. The Health Department will play an integral role in promoting and creating awareness of the courses in Baltimore's assisted living and senior housing communities.
"I want to thank the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Johns Hopkins schools of Nursing and Medicine for partnering with our Division of Aging and our Infection Control Team to create these courses," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa. "Developing courses based on the lived experiences of subject-matter experts, including managers of congregant living settings, will go a long way in ensuring that our target audiences are receptive to our materials and will apply the lessons to their operations."