By Steve Moran

I subscribe to a bunch of different email lists, many that have nothing to do with senior living. One caught my eye last week because it linked to an articles about a large national senior living company. Much of what was written was simply wrong or stupid; not worth talking about here, though I did respond to the writer.

The gist of the article was pretty droll and, of course, fundamentally untrue: “senior living companies only care about the bottom line.”

It Was a Minor Point, But Huge

The article context was that the author’s grandmother had been living in a community but that she had taken her home to protect her from the COVID-19 risk in the community. It was this one sentence that really took my breath away and got me to thinking:

“Too often grandma was not given her medication or was stuck in her room and missed meals because no one would bring the wheelchair she needed to get to the dining room for dinner” (gently edited to make it hard to search for).

When I read that, these thoughts went through my head:

That’s not good.

I have, more often than I would like, read these kinds of comments from other consumers, about this company.

I wonder what goes through the heads of senior leadership when they read these things about their communities.

I Would Go Nuts

I admit (and if you are a regular reader you know this) that I am rather thin-skinned about criticism of my organization but in the best way. I immediately go into the mode of “this is my fault and I have to fix it.” My first thought was that if I were the CEO of this company and read this, I would go nuts trying to figure out what community it was and how to fix it.

My assumption would not be to pound on that community but to figure out how we could get them what they needed to get this right.

In Fairness . . .

Stuff happens, human beings make mistakes, and sometimes residents and family members have unreasonable expectations. It is possible that these things happened once and they were exploited in order to make the article more sensational.

But I Am Not Sure

Because these comments are not that hard to find about this company, and frankly about a number of companies, I find myself, fearful that too often the leaders see so many of these complaints they find ways to live with them, to even excuse them.

In my view, this should not be.

This is Not a Universal Problem

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a senior living consumer who signed a contract to move his mother into the community of a different national provider before the COVID-19 pandemic hit like a ton of bricks. They cleaned out her home, loaded a moving truck, and showed up at the community ready to move mom and her things into her new home.

When they arrived they were told, “Sorry, this isn’t going to happen.” And frankly, local leadership was completely inflexible in finding a solution. The consumer tried to figure out how to reach the CEO of the company without any success, but found me because of an interview I had done with the CEO.

When he told me the problem, he also told me what he was looking for from the company. Frankly it was way less than what I would have expected. I was pretty sure I could help. I reached out to someone in the executive offices and less than a day later the guy was given way more than he was asking for.

This is my dream for every single senior executive but I am afraid we have a ways to go to get there.