By Steve Moran
Frequently when there is a negative story about a senior living operator that gets splashed all around the news, I remain silent because I believe that too often, the truth is that senior living has failed. And I often silently celebrate when a operator that failed their duty to residents gets what they deserve.
I CANNOT REMAIN SILENT ON THIS ONE!
This is a horrible mischaracterization of a good company and leaders who are passionate about providing great care to individuals with complex needs.
On March 14, 2023, George Gascón, the Los Angeles district attorney, announced the filing of charges against Silverado Senior Living and three executives for infections that took place in March of 2020. Every day the rules and guidance were changing. People were getting sick and dying. The vaccine was not yet available. PPE was tough to get. Rapid tests were not yet available; in fact, hardly anyone was getting tested, and it took days to weeks to get tested.
While we knew COVID-19 was terrible, we simply had no idea how bad (or not bad) it was going to be. People died, and older people with medical conditions were more likely to die than those who were younger and in good health.
Good Luck and Good Practice
It felt so random at the time. Some communities had bunches of deaths, and others few or none. While good practices made a difference, luck, good or bad, was a huge factor. Some not-so-great communities escaped relatively unscathed, and some really great communities had significant illness and death.
One More Factor
I am not so sure it applies in this particular case, but there is one more factor we are reluctant to talk about. It is impossible to get the hiring thing 100% right. You have to do your very best and then cross your fingers. A single rogue employee can do real harm to residents and the whole senior living enterprise.
I can’t help but believe Gascón’s political reputation plays into this decision to file these charges. He is a deeply unpopular district attorney who was nearly recalled because he is seen by many people in both parties as soft on crime. This likely represents what he perceives as an easy target that no one will object to.
The Case Itself
From the LA Times, you read these statements:
- “The facility was meant to be closed to visitors …”|
- and “admitted a patient from a New York psychiatric unit.”
- “Silverado Beverly Place’s own protocols required it to not admit anyone from a high-risk area ….”
- “… [T]he patient was not tested for the coronavirus when they were admitted and showed symptoms the next morning.”
- “After they tested positive, they were not quarantined.”
- “Management at the facility did not block visitors who traveled domestically or internationally within 14 days to areas where COVID-19 cases were confirmed, prosecutors allege.”
- “These careless decisions created conditions that needlessly exposed Silverado staff and its residents to serious injury and — tragically — death,’ Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement.”
This makes it all sound like a simple, clearcut set of decisions that killed people. It is a complete rewrite of the way it was. There was simply no good science around caring for residents in a pandemic like this. There was so much we simply did not know. So little we actually knew for sure.
This is a good company; the leaders being charged are good people, and they are being trashed by LA County and by the press. It hurts every single person working in a Silverado senior living community. It hurts the industry. It makes people afraid of senior living.
The data is becoming clearer every day that older people who live in senior living communities have better lives, and this irresponsible action makes it so much worse for older people and for our society.
What does he want? A world without senior living? A place where people languish at home without community, without the support they need?
The industry needs to speak out against what is happening.