Help! I’m a stereotype!

By Guest Contributor

It started out like any other Thursday. I woke up and slid out of bed, showered, dressed and guzzled down strong coffee. I drove to the office and arrived my usual 15 minutes before everyone, opened my computer and started to get a jump on my email when – my phone rang.

“Ryan, it’s me, Stephanie.” My sister.

“What’s up?”

“We have to do something now . . . about mom.”

“Why, what happened?”

“Danny found her wandering the neighborhood this morning. She was blocks from the house and almost to the main intersection. Ryan, she was still in her nightgown.”

“Ok . . . I’ll book a flight today. But this time we have to do more than talk about it.”

Ironic, isn’t it? For someone who’s been in the senior housing industry for almost 25 years to be all at once cast in the role of the “adult child” – the decision maker.  

Cast In The Role of Customer

For years I’ve hired and trained marketing and sales staff on how to connect, how to build a relationship and – of course – how to close. Now, here I am, cast in the role of “customer.” And what’s more ironic is that I fit the stereotype. I’m the long-distance-oldest-son faced with the daunting task of making a life-altering decision for my mom. I have 2 sisters who are looking to me as “the expert,” to take the lead on this . . . to talk with mom, to explain things to her, to get her to understand . . . to accept and . . . to move.”

Now, my years in this industry don’t seem to be doing me any good. I’m just a son who loves his mom. Overwhelmed with this devastating duty that is reflected as a small blip – a single number – on my daily occupancy update. Now, I’m about to be a blip on someone’s “Prospect and Leads” report. Oh, the irony.

It’s A Humbling Experience

I sit back in my comfortable leather chair and hear several other folks walk into the office, but I’m having an out-of-body experience at the moment, feeling overwhelmed with guilt, worry . . . pain. Stereotypical.

I wonder if anyone else has had this experience. No, I know many have. I’m just wondering if anyone felt the same way as I do now. Like a college graduate entering kindergarten on the first day of school. It’s surreal.

I’d already started mentally working on my “script” for when I see mom as our morning stand-up meeting begins. I’m there . . . but only physically, as my mind races through scenarios of how this will go, from unimaginably good to horrific. The reality is probably somewhere in between as I assume it is for all of us. I don’t even know what communities are close by! Am I looking for Assisted Living or Memory Care? Ugh! Maybe we should try home health, or move mom in with one of my sisters, or with us? How much can we afford to pay? What if . . . what if . . . ?

My Mind Is Spinning

So here I am. A leader in the senior living industry. A veteran who has been around the block a few times. An executive who has led and taught. I’ve been a consultant, a speaker . . . and now, I’m utterly speechless. Left to wallow in the irony that – despite my career – I’m just like every other son of an aging parent. Frightened and needing help.  

I start to pray that I find that person out there. That sales rep, that Executive Director who understands what I’m – we’re – going through and who can empathize. I don’t want sympathy, I want someone who understands what this feels like – who’s been through it before. I pray for that person who can help us, who will see us as more than just another deposit; someone who cares more about helping me and my family than getting another “close” and another commission. I pray that we find someone who has a servant’s heart and who would rather help a family through a difficult time even if it means helping them to find a different community.

I pray I find one of those people in our business. Maybe someone that I’ve affected or taught – or that someone else has – to empathize, to engage in understanding and helping above all else.

I don’t think I’ll ever ask, “How many move-ins did we get this month,” in the same way again.  

Maybe I’ll start asking, “How many families have we helped this month?”