By Steve Moran
I was going through my typical news feeds this morning and came across a new investigative series on the poor state of nursing homes in California. The latest is a series on the website LAist. The most recent article is titled: “Immediate Jeopardy: Death And Neglect Inside A Troubled California Nursing Home Chain”.
This specific article takes a look at “ReNew Health”, a newish nursing home organization that houses roughly 2% of the state’s nursing home residents. But in 2019, its facilities were slapped with nearly 10% of the state’s findings by federal regulators that a facility “caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident.”
Despite that, ReNew Health and its CEO, Crystal Solorzano, have been able to steadily grow their operation. Advocates for nursing home patients blame the state for lax and inconsistent enforcement.
According to the article, the California Department of Health is in the process of revoking, CEO Solorzano’s nursing home administrator’s license. And yet she continues to grow the number of nursing homes controlled by her organization.
The backdrop to this story is that LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) are spearheading the charge for major reforms in areas of reimbursement and regulations, something that is way overdue.
But . . .
It becomes really hard to make a serious case with stories like this filling the airwaves. It is particularly difficult when according to the article:
“Solorzano has chronicled a glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle on her Instagram account. She now owns three residential properties in Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, valued at more than $11 million, according to assessor records. She was photographed with future governor Gavin Newsom in 2018, whose campaigns ReNew has supported with $20,000, according to campaign finance data. And she’s embraced the nickname ‘the Blonde Gorilla’, which adorns a trophy and hat she has shared on social media.”
A lifestyle that suggests there is plenty of money to go around. (I would note that her Instagram account is now marked private.)
Two Sides to Every Story . . . I Guess
I get that there are two sides to every story and I am willing to acknowledge that it is possible that this organization and this CEO are being unfairly picked on by the media. I know that because nursing homes care for people in the final stages of life bad, ugly, hard, painful, sad things happen and cannot be prevented.
But how does one become okay with this, if you are the owner, if you are a senior-level manager, if you are in the industry?
HOW IS THIS NOT THE WORST KIND OF AGEISM?
Our Response and our Responsibility
What is perhaps worst of all is that we see these kinds of stories so often that we mostly just roll our eyes, and think “another one of those stories”. We write them off as an unfair attack on our industry. And perhaps blame the media for only telling one side and the federal and state governments for unfair regulations and inadequate funding.
But is that really it? Are they just making up stories about people dying, people being harmed? Were those tragic situations inevitable?
OUR REFUSAL TO SPEAK OUT IS THE WORST KIND OF AGEISM.
I find myself wondering, how people would view nursing homes and senior living more broadly, if we actually took a stand and demanded that the government take action. Because these circumstances make us all look bad.
When we are silent we look complacent.
We are complacent.
If you are a good or great operator you should be calling this out, condemning it. You should be contrasting what you do with what this organization and others like it are doing. But when we are silent . . .
- People don’t trust us
- There is little incentive to reform the regulatory process
- There is a negative incentive to increase payments
- Fear of senior living already rampant grows
- We are ageist
We must demand that this stop.