Why did she have such an aversion to assisted living?

By Steve Moran

So many readers have sent me versions of this story with the same thought . . . “We have a serious image problem.”

My Thoughts

You might see the headline or the story and think . . . “Yeah, so what? A one-off story, and at 92 she probably had dementia!” I am not even going to touch how one might accuse that kind of thinking as being ageism . . . since that was my first thought too.

But, here is the thing that deserves a second look. More accurately, here is the question that makes this article worth pondering:

Why did she have such an aversion to assisted living?

This is actually a really important question because there were alternative ways for her to look at going to assisted living:

  • Fantastic, I am going to have the time of my life.

  • Wow, I can finally live out my last chapters doing something amazing.

  • Awesome, new friends and great food.

  • Okay, not my first choice, but I am good with it.

The Story: Arizona woman, 92, shot, killed son who tried putting her in assisted living, cops say.

An elderly mother in Arizona allegedly shot and killed her son on Monday after she learned of his plans to put her in a nursing home, officials said.

Anna Blessing, 92, had been thinking about her son’s intentions to put her in a home for days, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office stated in a news release. She confronted him on Monday morning with two pistols that she hid in her robe, according to police.

Her final words to him:

“You took my life, so I’m taking yours”

This was her actual perception of senior living.

And finally, check out the comments on this version of the story at Yahoo News. You will see the image problem we have.

Fixing It

This is a fixable problem. Here is how we can start:

  1. We need to start with the basics first. I have written about 40 articles where I detail my visits to senior living communities and I have have had way more bad first Impressions than ok first impressions and way more ok first impressions than great experiences.  

    It takes no money only some time to think about what that ought to be like and then train staff how to do it.

  2. We need to get our cultures right. We need to think in terms of creating experience cultures and not care cultures. We need to think about what having a great culture means to team members, residents, and families.

  1. We need to love our complainers to death. It is easy and maybe technically right to see complainers as folks who are unreasonable and therefore don’t deserve much respect. The problem is, first, they may actually be the best people to point out real problems we need to fix; and, second, if we are dismissive of them, they are going to tell EVERYONE who will listen how terrible your “facility” is and by extension, how terrible senior living is. Even though it is not true.

  1. We, as an industry, need to cooperate in telling our story. How about LeadingAge, Argentum, ASHA, AHCA, and maybe even NIC getting together on this. Creating a budget, putting some serious dollars into telling our story better.

    The way I would do it would be to hire a PR firm that has access to influencers, just a few, but the right ones . . . Oprah caliber and look not for paid media but for earned media. We do have stories that are worth telling.

How about it Argentum, LeadingAge, AHCA, ASHA, and NIC? Let’s go do a summit and get these amazing stories told. If you want to do this reach out to me and I will facilitate making it happen.

Not holding my breath, but hopeful.