By Steve Moran

I have toured enough senior living communities with senior living executives to know how it goes. “Welcome to our community; everything is wonderful.” It is what community leaders think think their leaders want to hear. And if we are honest, it is in truth what they want to hear.

The problem is that even in well-run communities that have high occupancy and are fully staffed, running these communities is challenging and complicated.

It is not that leaders don’t know this, because they do, but knowing it and experiencing it are very different things.

13 Things

Here are 13 things executives would learn if they were to spend one day a month working in a community. It could be working the front desk, serving food or washing dishes, doing resident care or selling units.

  1. Getting to work on time is a lot harder than it sounds. In truth, if an executive shows up five or 15 minutes late, they can. No one is going to complain.
  2. There are too many rules. It is easy for senior living leaders to solve problems with a new policy or procedure, but it is near impossible to remember them, if they even ever get read. I remember hearing of one senior living company that created something like 900 pages of rules, regulations, policies, and procedures because of COVID. I bet no one read them all..
  3. Sometimes residents simply need to have someone listen to them. There needs to be enough slack time in the day for human-to-human interaction between staff and residents.
  4. Some residents (and their families) are jerks. The truth is that the residents are not always right. Sometimes they are unreasonable, and on occasion, some engage in abusive behavior.
  5. Stand-up should be fun and valuable. Too often stand-up is done because it is supposed to be done — it is simply a box to check off — but everyone really hates it. It should be something everyone looks forward to every week.
  6. Everyone needs affirmation. There is this assumption that people will just do their job and find intrinsic joy, or at least get satisfaction from a paycheck. This is simply not enough.
  7. It is hard to get things done. There are so many competing needs that it is hard to find concentrated time to work on projects.
  8. Workplace drama is real and unavoidable. If you have more than two people, there will be workplace drama. The boss mostly doesn’t see it, because they are the catalyst of the drama, but everyone else experiences it.
  9. Not every problem is fixable. Particularly with older people who have real mental and physical needs, whose bodies and minds are deteriorating, some things are simply not fixable. Not all pain can be made to go away. Not all family drama can be fixed — and for sure not by the community staff.
  10. There is a need for more good leads and less bad leads. Bad leads have to be worked like they are good leads, but they take time and energy, leaving less time to work the good leads when you finally figure out which is which.
  11. Selling is something everyone does. Salespeople get all the glory and the commissions when there are move-ins, and this creates resentment and sometimes conflict.
  12. Mostly team members love their jobs, their residents and their fellow employees. Problems are what leaders hear most about and need to solve, but in reality, most people are pretty happy about what they are doing.
  13. Everyone has good ideas about how to make the community and the company better. They need to be listened to and heard. When it makes sense, those ideas should be implemented.

What would you add to this list?