By Steve Moran

Senior living has a problem that we seem unwilling to talk about. And yet if we ever want to be as great as we can be, we need to tackle it head-on.

We have seen senior living communities that have handled the COVID-19 crisis in near-perfect ways. They had great protocols before the pandemic hit, and as the wave hit they adjusted to protect residents and enable team members to go beyond what seemed humanly possible to do.

That is not to say they had no infections or no deaths, that would be an impossible standard given who we care for every day.

But Then . . .

We have seen some unmitigated disasters, where residents and team members got sick and died by the dozens. It is fair to say that luck and geography played a role. It is even fair to say that the shortage of PPE and the lack of government support in obtaining those supplies played a role.

Ultimately though, in most cases, the biggest difference was that some communities and organizations are good and others are crummy.

The Hard Truth

The hard truth is that there are some operators out there who are not very good. They really do care more about profits than people.

This has nothing to do with for-profit versus not-for-profit. We have seen both do great and be unmitigated disasters. This has nothing to do with nursing home versus the rest of senior living. We have seen both do great and be unmitigated disasters.

The Courage We Need

The courage we need is to not be defensive of the whole industry. We must say there are good and bad operators and those bad operators hurt or even kill people. When we simply defend the whole industry, we are in a minor way complicit in what they do.

We need to be outing those bad players, we need to be telling people those guys that are doing a terrible job are not places you ever let your loved one move into.

We need this. We need to figure this out.

Maybe it is time to have a serious discussion about an independent third party that will set high standards and certify only the best of the best in senior living.

Do I Owe Bill Thomas an Apology?

In 2015 Bill Thomas wrote a blog post titled The Way of the Tiger in which he proposed that each state nursing home regulating agency should make a commitment to close the worst 30, 40, or 50 nursing homes in their state. I responded to that article, not exactly disagreeing but suggesting he was tackling the wrong problem in an article I titled: Bill Thomas Says: “I Am An Abolitionist”Maybe though that is exactly what we need — a national movement to close down the 100 worst communities each year.

Imagine what that would say to the world of aging.

Maybe we should be celebrating every time a bad operator fails . . . a failure hall of fame even.

I am not sure. As I write those words they sound awfully harsh. And yet those bad operators are hurting people and costing the good operators millions of dollars as they do damage to this amazing industry.