It is our job to be the helping experts so families can figure out how to create the highest possible quality of life for the elders being served.

By Steve Moran

A few weeks ago, my cousin called me in tears, saying that her dad, my uncle had 48 hours to get out of his nursing home where he had been receiving therapy for his second broken hip in 8 months. The Medicare Advantage HMO had determined that he used his maximum days and so he had to go or start paying $500 a day.

It was a horrible experience. As food for thought, I posted this at the Senior Living Leadership group on Facebook (which we would love to have you join).

I had a terrible encounter with a nursing home DON. Got one message from the Administrator then he would not respond to my calls. I gave up except for a message to a high-level corporate executive, which did get me an email message. Here is what I wrote to him . . . It is a rant and I come off as a jerk.

But we have to do better than this. It is about the frailest dying seniors and it makes me mad.


Right now if anyone asked me about nursing homes to check out or avoid in the Sacramento area, yours would be on the avoid list.

Your DON treated me horribly when I asked her to take responsibility for a safe discharge, a legal obligation and at the time she was the highest authority in the building and she just wanted to be left alone. She later told my uncle’s wife that I terrorized her. That is simply a lie unless saying I was going to call the ombudsman and department of health is terrorism.

Then you did call me and I was impressed until I returned the call and twice left messages and you never called back.

I am not trying to be a jerk and I am not a jerk, but I will be honest. I hate it when the senior living industry, which I love, behaves this way.

And … I know it is a lot worse for people who don’t understand the system or how to fight for their rights. At the end of the day, because of just this one incident, you have a whole bunch of people perpetuating the idea that nursing homes in general suck and that owners and administrators only care about the money . . . which is kind of how it feels to me.

Then the industry wonders why no one cares about making sure a nursing home gets a fair reimbursement rate.

The thing is, this was a trivial situation. The DON could have involved your social services person, who I didn’t actually meet but I understand is really good and this would have been done. No fight, no complaint, nothing. Yet she would rather treat me badly than help me.

I don’t get it.

The Distress

Many, even most commenters were in support of my post and how I had handled it, and my view of the nursing home leadership. However, I was gobsmacked when a small number of group members came to the defense of the DON. They felt I was being unreasonable thinking the DON was unreasonable.

My response to each of them was to ask how I should have done it differently. As of the writing of this article, none have responded. Because I am a quivering mass of self-doubt I have also spent a fair amount of time replaying how I approached the situation wondering if I could have been less confrontational, and I am not seeing it play out any different.  

My distress and bafflement are that we have folks in the industry who honestly and sincerely believe that because the job is tough, the regulations are so unreasonable, and families are too demanding being rude and unhelpful is acceptable behavior.  

I don’t believe “the customer is always right” because there are unreasonable bad-behaving customers who abuse team members and that SHOULD NEVER be tolerated.  

And Yet . . .

For residents and families, this is mostly a very difficult time. It is our job to be the helping experts so they can figure out how to create the highest possible quality of life for the elders being served.  

If you don’t see it that way, this is probably not the right business to be in.  

Your thoughts?