I have had so many conversations over the last couple of months with senior living leaders about how the whole sector is being dragged down by the hit that nursing homes are taking in the public eye. I have even written about it . . . “This Makes My Blood Boil”. And I find myself reconsidering my initial thinking.
Nursing Home Disaster
In a recent NYT Op-ed piece, they point out that about 40% (68,000 people) of all COVID-related deaths occurred in nursing homes and this is a profound embarrassment for the rest of senior living. I am sure you cringe, as an independent living, assisted living, memory care, or Life Plan Community leader every single time you see senior living and nursing homes conflated.
Except . . .
Let’s Be Honest
Skilled Nursing is a member of our family. We have always been mildly embarrassed by that part of senior living. But today, there is a near-total desire to take our embarrassing cousin and act as if they are not part of the family.
This is wrong.
They are, without a doubt on the ropes. Not only that, in way too many cases they have been complicit in the severity of their disaster stories. And yet . . . they are a part of our family. We need them and they need us. It is not the time to wholesale discarding of the entire nursing home part of our family.
Not a Wholesale Endorsement
This is not a wholesale endorsement of nursing homes no matter what, but rather a call for us to be honest about THE ENTIRE SENIOR LIVING ECOSYSTEM. In truth, we have some amazingly great operators and some bafflingly terrible operators regardless of level of care. Rather than trashing the whole sector, we need to differentiate between good and bad with the goal of crushing the bad and elevating the good.
When I was a kid growing up, before cell phones and when computers did only the simplest of things and were controlled by massive decks of punch cards, the geeks were scorned. They were the losers, not much different than the handicapped cousin.
We woke up and the geeks were the kings and queens of the technology sector, making more money and having more power than one could have ever imagined in even the wildest Disney fantasy.
Opportunity & Morality
I am uncomfortable with the idea that we should be “nice” to the skilled nursing sector because they might one day have the upper hand, even though it is true. We should be working with nursing homes because, ultimately we are all in this together with the same singular goal. And that is to enable older people to live out the last chapters of their lives with purpose, joy, and dignity. The rest of senior living should be asking, “How can we best support them in this goal?” They should be asking the same of us . . . once they are out of the fire.
At the end of the day, we should not pretend nursing homes are not a part of the family because they are.