For this article the community name has been changed

By Martin Bayne

Saint Francis Xavier Senior Living (for this article the name has been changed), a hundredish bed Personal Care Home** (PCH) in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley — and my home for the last four years — schedules “Happy Hour” (HH) for its residents every Friday from 3:30 – 5:00 PM. 

Held in the Activity Room, HH typically attracts 25-35 residents, and offers food and beverages . . .

Wait. Stop right here

I promised myself I wouldn’t get off on a rant about the same tired plates of broccoli, celery and carrot sticks, cubes of German sausage and cheese — the vast majority of which is thrown away each week — but someone has to bring it up. Besides, it offers an opportunity to introduce two social constructs:

I pay $7,000/month for my room. How ’bout some chicken wings, pistachios and cheese doodles?

This is a perfect example of why 99.9% of top-down management systems fail in a long-term care setting. In this case because nobody spent the hour it would have taken to do a little research with a couple of local pubs to find out what they serve their clients for HH. Also, that applies to the beverage side of the HH. We currently serve wine and beer. If you don’t like Coors Light, the one beer they serve, you’re out of luck as a beer drinker. 


Here’s a novel idea — ask the residents what THEY want for happy hour.

That’s it.

A simple survey list would do the trick.

“Now, pour me that Corona, son.”

One half-hour into the festivities, one of the activity aides announces, “Time for trivia,” and after 15 minutes of trivia it was on to Pictionary.

It was as if they said, “OK, old people. We know you can’t keep yourselves amused for ninety minutes, so we’re going to help you.” Ironically, if they listened to the conversations at the tables, they’d pick up on the fact that HH is, hands down, the best opportunity for residents to get to know each other. (A nice glass of Merlot opens the heart and loosens the tongue.)

A Short Note to Admin: If you’re looking for a way to refresh your happy hour, or solve a myriad of other issues, LET YOUR RESIDENTS SHOW YOU THE WAY.

NOTA BENE: 3:33 PM EST 6/4/2015

R.M., the community’s Activity Director, read a draft of this short OpEd earlier this morning. An hour ago she presented a comprehensive survey list of food & beverage choices for the next happy hour.

PS The sound you now hear is me clapping!! Way to go, gang! (One of the occupational hazards of being an “advocate” is, in an effort to quantify the clouds, we sometimes fail to see the sun. MB)


** Personal Care Homes (PCHs) are an essential component of Pennsylvania’s continuum of long term care facilities. They house and service many of our most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and persons with mental and physical disabilities. Like a boarding home, they provide a room (sometimes shared) and three meals a day. They differ from boarding homes because they are required by law to provide “safe, humane, comfortable, and supportive residential settings for aged, blind and disabled, and other dependent adults who require assistance beyond the basic necessities of food and shelter but who do not need hospitalization or skilled or intermediate nursing care”. Pennsylvania does not have a separate assisted living residence license, so any place calling itself an assisted living residence (ALR) must be licensed as a personal care home. Presently, Pennsylvania law prohibits personal care homes from admitting or retaining residents whose care needs would qualify them for nursing facility care.