Is it ever worth the battle?

By Steve Moran

Three or four times a year a disgruntled resident or family will stumble onto the Senior Housing Forum website and reach out to me to complain about the services they or a friend are receiving at a senior living community. This week was very unusual because I actually received two of them about two different organizations.

Here is one of them (stripped of identifying information and with some formatting for readability):

Submitted on Friday, June 8, 2018 – 10:12 am
Submitted by anonymous user: XXX.XXXXX.XXX 

First Name: Paula
Last Name: Clinton

Comments: Mr. Moran, I read your interview with the CEO of Happy Acres. My 92-year-old mother has been a resident at the Happy Acres facility since September 2017. On average there is one serious medication error every 15 days that I am able to witness or have been reporting to the Regional Director.  

In a nutshell, the problems are:

    • Poor hygiene when changing wound dressings

    • Missed medications

    • Medications administered at the wrong time or given with food

    • Misplacing medications for days without informing the healthcare POA

    • And . . . lastly getting another resident’s medication.  

I have been documenting these occurrences with the local Police, the state Nursing Board, and seven times with the State Licensing officials for the community.

I have been asking for help and no change is coming. The regional, Bob Leader, told me to take my mother somewhere else because Happy Acres could not live up to my expectations.

I try to contact the Corporate Office to talk with the next person higher up the chain of command. I have been stonewalled for 6 months. The corporate office keeps informing me to work with the regional. I am caught in a loop with no results.

In the meantime, my mother doesn’t get her glaucoma eye drops as instructed by her physician. Her eye physician has already written a letter to the Executive Director stating that as the Executive Director she will be held responsible for damaging my mother’s eyesight. The last office visit showed an increase in pressure.

I could go on and on. Please contact me at my work number XXX-XXX-XXXX or return my email. Help me improve life for my mother. Show me how to beat this system of neglect and hold Happy Acres accountable for their actions. There is a cover-up. I need your Forum to bring this to the CEOs attention.

For being a whistleblower and getting Happy Acres cited by the State, my calls are not being returned. Please help me.

Thank you,

Distressed Daughter

I am likely a sucker, but I called the distressed daughter and spent about 30 minutes on the phone with her. The conversation started out as reasonable, but as I made some suggestions it turned into a “yes but” discussion.

At the end of the conversation, I passed the email on to the corporate leadership and, of course, will likely never know what happened because the Happy Acre folks won’t be able to say and it is unlikely I will again hear from the daughter.


Early in my blogging career, I would get these emails and be at least mildly outraged at the terrible treatment residents and their families were receiving, but I have learned there is often more to the story. However, there are some lessons in this:

  1. The email had a number of red flags that things were not all that they seemed to be. First and most significant, her complaints to the state and local officials were not being responded to, which would suggest that they decided she was being unreasonable.   

    In addition, this company — like many — have a number of ways to complain up the food chain and the fact that she was stonewalled also suggests she was being unreasonable.

    And yet . . .

  1. I found myself wondering if there were things that could have been done to make it better. She is today, intractable. It is almost certainly too late to fix it in any kind of reasonable fashion.

  1. What was particularly significant was that apparently, folks on the community side made commitments about follow-up conversations that did not happen. No wonder because I am sure they would have been horribly unpleasant.

  1. I have no idea if this was done or not, but offering some kind of an apology would have likely gone a long way toward making things better. My sense is this did not happen.

Most importantly, except in extraordinarily rare situations, it is not worth going to war with a resident or their family.