Even though I've decided not to make my usual naïve New Year's recommendations to veteran long-term care professionals, maybe a quick review of some important industry news from the profession's finest news source can offer guidance or inspiration at the start of this bouncing baby of a new year.
So here we are at the end of 2016. It's been kind of a brutal year — globally, nationally, personally, even as a long-term care profession. Lots of loss, much uncertainty and fear, many reasons to shake our tiny Trump-size fists at the universe, wailing, "Why us? Why now?" Bob has our answer.
Every year about this time, I tell you eagerly and often weepily about "The Trip." The one where 12 veterans, many of them from World War II and living in long-term care, get to hop on a plane to Washington, DC, to see first-hand the memorials created in their honor. This time I'm happy to offer it in video and still shots.
While we've been focused on trivialities like HHS and CMS appointments, declining U.S. dementia rates and electing an orange President, rabid squirrels are terrorizing long-term care communities nationwide.
Nope, I won't do it. I just won't. This is a column about long-term care and the important issues facing our profession. I absolutely refuse to get drawn into a heated discussion about the elephant in the room — not its tail or its Trump, I mean trunk. Gosh darn it, this is already impossible.
The many ways we angrily resist all perceived attacks on independence and image, even when it clearly comes at the expense of our own comfort and safety, has clearly been manifest in my bout with plantar fasciitis.
In a new study highlighted by McKnight's, more than 60% of night shift workers reported "poor sleep quality, insomnia and impaired sleep-related activities of daily living." Reading those words, I had two reactions: 1) how troubling and sad, and 2) these are my people!
Thanks to the inadvertent generosity of Starbucks, I didn't have to climb a mountain in my bare feet or learn to speak Tibetan to discover the secret of peace and happiness. It was delivered personally along with my morning coffee — and the message was steamy fresh and venti.
Of all the forces in the universe, I fear irony the most. It's lethal, and is eventually going to find and destroy me.
This isn't just a story about the World War II veteran who got to fly again, inspiring though it most certainly was. I know, because I was there — holding a video camera, unsteadily at times, as the emotion of the experience threatened to undermine my professionalism.
So, now we learn that flossing is probably useless. It's not even recommended anymore. The government said so.
So anyway, speaking of aging, I got to spend Sunday evening with a delightful old guy named Steve — a spry, perfectly adorable gentleman with a Mike Pence hairdo who plays the banjo and seems to have a natural flair for humor. I think his last name might have been Martin. Perhaps you've heard of him.
After posing questions ever since the bitter childhood discovery that I would never be an astronaut or Bobby Orr, I finally got my answer this week. Why do I exist? To be the guy with jumper cables.
It's a disquieting visual I can't quite get out of my mind — a single hiking boot hanging from a trail sign. Even you, a crisis-tested long-term care professional, might feel surprised and uneasy.
I'm not aware of any formal, airline-style elite upgrade programs for long-term care residents, but when the time arrives, I hope they exist — and that I qualify.
Next to a cozy blanket or mug of cocoa, nothing quite soothes the soul like the calming embrace of pure naiveté. Perhaps that's why more than one-third of Americans apparently believe Medicare will pay for their long-term care needs.
Don't you just hate it when you're having a bad, horrible, rotten, unpleasant day, when you're maybe feeling a little irritated or resentful or hurt or afraid, and then somebody comes along so relentlessly positive and cheerful that you almost want to throw him off the Hertz airport shuttle bus?
It's been a tough few years for antipsychotics. I feel a little bad for them. So maligned and stigmatized. Now the news comes out that they might produce compulsive or uncontrollable urges regarding gambling and sex.This news is shocking, at least to me.
It's about time someone is pushing back against all the vitriolic nonsense and baseless accusations people are willing to spew when they think no one will know who they are. Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would outlaw anonymous complaints against nursing homes. I, Gary Tetz, am tired of anonymity being used as a weapon.
I'm not surprised dementia is now being tied to gum disease. I have long believed the mouth offers a convenient and unflinching window to the soul, and that everything important about someone can be ascertained by a careful inspection of his or her teeth and oral cavity.
Benjamin Franklin didn't work in long-term care. Look it up. It's a historical fact. If he had, his hair-brained daylight saving scheme never would have seen the light of day.
It's getting harder and harder to talk to strangers on planes, now that advancing technology has rudely stripped a primary conversation starter away from all of us who are shy travelers.
Powerball is one of the great tests of work-based friendship in long-term care.Those 13 California nursing home nurses who came within one number of winning the whole $1.5 billion lottery are almost certainly discovering that right now. With one series of semi-lucky numbers, they've probably compromised every close workplace relationship they've taken years to build.
We baby boomers think we'll live forever. Data now suggests we might just be right.
You think Five Star is bad? That cherry-picked data can lead to misinterpretation? That it's unfair to be publicly vilified online, and perhaps eternally defined, by every little mistake? You're lucky you're not Blair Walsh.
Let the record show that on the evening of Dec. 30, 2015 — otherwise known as New Year's Eve Eve — I found myself in a buoyant and celebratory mood, craving a buoyant and celebratory beverage. But then Happy Hour rapidly descended into Extremely Unhappy Minute.
As the weather turns bleak and cold, the prospect of mandatory bundled payments gets more attractive all the time. Meanwhile, the flu virus is out jumping in the puddles, shrieking with unbridled joy. Here are some tips to survive it all this winter.
Chickens absolutely love Thanksgiving. At least on that one special day, they can finally breathe a little easier while chefs from humble homes to long-term care kitchens choose a larger bird for celebratory slaughter.
"Well, gosh. Just my luck." I don't know for certain that's how the Pennsylvania nursing home housekeeper responded after being fired for using bad language at work. But regardless, it's nothing compared with what she probably said when the court ruled she wouldn't get unemployment compensation either.
"That TSA agent made my day." You don't hear that sentence very often. On any list of unlikely utterances, it's right up there with "Those Republicans and Democrats really work well together," or "I wish this stomach flu could last forever."
Anyone worried about the macro-challenges perpetually facing long-term care, and the country, should spend some quality time with Mr. Lincoln — preferably at night.
I feel a little dirty even talking about this. But there's disconcerting news from the world of hand washing, and no amount of anti-microbial goo will sanitize some very frightening statistics about LTC — lousy thumb cleaning.
Some things probably shouldn't require a law. Kittens shouldn't be water-boarded. Toddlers shouldn't have to work in coal mines, at least not in the dark or winter. Seniors in long-term care facilities should get some personal attention. But in the Netherlands, legislation is what it's coming to.
Here's how yesterday felt in my endless pursuit of long-term care-related service and perfection. As challenges multiplied, I'm pretty sure I was strapped inside an old wooden pickle barrel, pushed into the middle of the raging Niagara River and carried over the falls.
When I was a wee boy living in the Canadian wilderness, we needed to dig a well, so my dad hired a creepy-looking guy called a "water witch" to wander the property holding a forked stick out in front of him. If only finding the right long-term care employee were that easy.
Let's say you bought your long-term care administrator an expensive venti tall double-half frappalatte on your way to work yesterday, and he didn't reimburse you for it. Should you A) playfully remind him about it when you pass in the hall; B) consider it an investment in your future and move on; or C) sucker punch him in the face at the next stand-up?
Well, this is disappointing. I was convinced Donald Trump was going to be our first real long-term care president — a tireless and compassionate advocate for the profession and those we serve. Guess not. It just proves you never really know people.
I was scared, I'll admit it. I had never used it before. It was all so intimidating and new. The old system worked fine for me, and I was comfortable with its inadequacies. You might think I'm describing the terrifying transition to electronic health records in long-term care, but I'm not. This is about my first ride with Uber.
Long-term care has far too many professionals with a depth and range of skill and training that the public almost never gets to see.
After a particularly painful experience at a local restaurant, an irate friend of mine feels strongly that heat descriptions for spicy meals should be nationally monitored and controlled. But since I spend my life in and around the long-term care profession — one of the most heavily regulated in the universe — I'm skeptical.
There's a legendary photo of General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore upon a heroic return to the Philippines in World War II, and that's what popped into my mind recently when I saw an elderly gentleman walk triumphantly into the dining room of a post-acute rehab facility.
Last time we talked, it was peppers and hooch. Now it's liquor and prostitutes. As a long-term care professional, I imagine you're wondering what you've done wrong to encourage this trending moral free-fall in your facilities. But let me put your mind at ease. It's not you. It's me.
You are correct. "Peppers and Hooch" does sound like a bad buddy cop show from the '80s. But in the world of Nebraskan long-term care, the lethal combination could be threatening the whole profession.
It's notoriously difficult, not to mention foolish, to try to predict the future of long-term care in America. In all of our nation's recorded history, only one man can lay claim to true prescience on this topic. His name? Dr. Seuss.
Crowdfunding isn't the only way to raise money for a good cause, though it has recently netted one provider 60 televisions. Nudity is also an ever-attractive option.
My very adorable, but now elderly puppy has developed a serious problem with wandering. The last time, he was almost hit by a truck. It's rather troubling, to say the least. But long-term care providers may have shown me the way.
Growing old is a choice. I realize that now. But it took some straight talk from neurosurgeon and likely Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to help me see the light.
I'm feeling extremely unsettled lately. On edge. Anxious. It's not the threat of rising sea levels, or the erosion of public confidence in the integrity of Nightly News anchors, or the possibility that my hard-earned Four Star Rating might suddenly become a three. It's something far scarier than all those things combined. Larry Minnix is retiring.
That headline will only make sense if you were either alive or conscious during the 1960s, or care about good music. It's a lyric from a Beatles song, written by John Lennon for his mother, Julia. And it just happens to describe how I feel right now, trying to write something meaningful about an entirely different Julia.
A group of very fine long-term care people and I just spent the last 10 days in Nicaragua. I'll blog about why we went in a future installment, but first need to share the most important lesson learned on the trip.
People have wondered if I was awake to welcome the New Year. I think it's another way to find out if I'm old, like one of those trick long-term care job interview questions that would be illegal if you asked it directly. In fact, plenty of important questions need answers.
Social media overlords have their sights set on enslaving the planet's seniors. They might be in for a surprise.
My dog has a microchip embedded between his shoulder blades, and it's really setting my mind at ease. So I think it might be time for every member of your nursing staff to get one, too.
For success in long-term care, you want your employees to stay well, and especially not dead. If it isn't already, that should probably be a primary component of your business plan. A dead staff member is notoriously unreliable, often not even having the courtesy to call in, finish tasks as assigned or complete a proper exit interview. So you need your people alive. It's just good business.
Food. It's important. I once foolishly tried to go several weeks without any. I almost died and was finally forced to start eating again. Evidence suggests I overcorrected, so it's definitely a fine line.
Feeling a little cynical about life or country? Spend a day with a few World War II veterans on the National Mall. I guarantee a complete recovery, or your money back.
How dare you, Patrick! And just when my day was going so well.
Over a beer one day, tipsy researchers decided to study ... beer. Now, before you install a keg in every nurses' station in every memory care unit, you should know that they didn't exactly determine it was a cure-all for cognitive decline. But they did conclude that the study itself was a darn good idea, and one they intend to repeat every Friday afternoon indefinitely. Just to confirm their results, you understand. For the good of science.
I have been blessed with an astute business mind, and am always on the lookout for new pricing models for long-term care. I know we're in this profession for love, not money. But no margin, no mission, as they say. Which is much better than what they used to say — no profit, no point.
When I saw the New York Times article illuminating the clever ways devious operators could inflate their Medicare star ratings, I had mixed emotions ranging from fury to rage.
Lost in all the recent hubbub about the Ebola virus, Justin Bieber going to anger management class and a guy eating a nursing home resident's pain patch, is breaking news from the exciting world of stress, mice, science and skin.
Have you ever heard an eldercare researcher tell a joke? It can be a painful experience. No simple knock-knock. No guy walking into a bar.
After stealthily observing long-term care professionals in the wild for the past 15 years or so, I've come to see you as a perplexing and elusive study in contrasts. Perhaps you haven't noticed me. I've been conducting my research from a camouflaged duck blind in the lobby.
Here's what I've decided. Canada is the long-term care employee of the world.
Those Germans. They're even hungrier than caterpillars. After mastering the culinary artistry of Zwiebelkuchen, Schupfnudel, Maultaschen and Käsespätzle, which I'm not even going to bother defining because I'm so exhausted from figuring out how to type an umlaut, they've turned their prowess to creating 3D-printed food for residents in 1,000 German retirement homes.
Everyone struggles with who they are and their purpose in life. Whatever you do — whether you're a long-term care administrator, director of nursing, med aide or maintenance associate — you're pondering it. We all are. But some things aren't necessarily meant to get all figured out.
Nothing is clear these days — in long-term care or life. Everything's brutally ambiguous. We're living an endless good-news, bad-news life loop, where all the things we think are good for us will eventually also prove our demise. Coffee. Chocolate. Wine. They're our salvation, and our downfall, so it's impossible to know what to think or do. About anything.
Here's an innovative new way, and maybe the only one you haven't already tried, to make sure more people visit your lonely nursing home residents. Sentence them to do it.
The median annual cost of a nursing home room is now more than $87,000, according to a recent survey. To an uninformed member of the public, I'm sure that seems like a lot. But what the average person doesn't know is that the price also includes strippers, so it's actually pretty reasonable.
We hear a lot about drawing lines these days. And that's what long-term care employees need to immediately do — stand up tall to your facility overlords, muster your courage and draw a big, bold line. For anything short of an actual emergency, you're not going to be accessible after work any more.
First came the razor, deforesting small circles on my expansive torso. Then came the electrodes, streaming off my chest like ribbons from a departing ocean liner. I wasn't sure if I was being prepped for execution or a stress test, so seeing the doctor walk in instead of the chaplain was a huge relief.
It's been a rough day for good customer service, and since you live and work in a profession dependent upon it, I'm sharing these still raw and painful experiences because I believe they'll be relevant and instructive in your long-term care setting. Or else I just need someone to talk to.
Like any good long-term care provider, I should know that to breathe a sigh of relief after weathering a crisis is to challenge the gods. Remember Brad, the nursing home administrator who left the deposition shouting, "Hurray, the worst is over!"? Of course you don't. No skilled administrator would ever tempt fate by even thinking something so cosmically naïve.
Are you having a bad day? Maybe some nagging personnel problems? Or perhaps you're concerned about how the poor judgment of one employee could reflect negatively on the reputation of your facility in the community? If so, take a deep breath and slowly repeat to yourself, "At least the nursing home employee who posed with dead residents and then posted the pictures on Facebook doesn't work for me."
Sometimes people can love too much. For instance, when love causes an earthquake, it might be time to pull back and examine the health of the relationship.
If 2013 was anything, and I'm not convinced it was, it was the year of strong opinions — even in long-term care. The fact that they were often biased, self-serving or blissfully fact-free seemed to make no difference. From our nation's finest politicians right down to me, from my damp hole under the porch, we were willing to state our personal beliefs loudly, boldly, publicly, without question or doubt, as absolute truth. Or at least that's my opinion.
Well, alrighty then. Looks like I didn't win the lottery. So I guess I'll have to buckle down and write yet another profound but cheeky blog post for this fine long-term care news magazine. Sure, I'm surprised. I felt really good about my chances. But I grew up in a church whose pioneers believed we'd all be taken to heaven on Oct. 22, 1844, so I'm used to Great Disappointment.
Are you satisfied with your life? I'm not, and I barely know you. So in this festive Christmas/holiday month, it seems like the perfect time to figure out how to make your existence more mirth-filled and meaningful.
Some people do their best thinking during meditation or yoga. For others it's the shower, or while they're swimming from Cuba to Florida. Personally, some of my deepest, most insightful thoughts have occurred while my mouth is filled with fingers and dental tools.
Finding out therapy dogs slow down dementia symptoms is like discovering water quenches thirst, or shoes reduce firewalker foot pain. Of course they do. As my dogs like to say, "Grrrrr," followed by "Duh!"
At the end of a long day doing skillful and important things for elderly residents, do you ever pause and mutter to yourself, "He won't get any better. She won't live much longer. What an incredible waste of my very valuable time." I didn't think so. That's why I'm glad you chose a career in long-term care and Dr. Ben Carson didn't.
It seemed like a low-tech gimmick, but I signed up anyway to take the Virtual Dementia Tour. I had seen it promoted at the opening session of the American Health Care Association convention this week in Phoenix and I felt it would at least help me briefly escape the continual, non-existent clamor of my fan
Each year about this time, I get that special tingle, followed by an irresistible impulse. Soon I'm dancing madly around the house, racing from room to room, jumping and gyrating on pieces of furniture while shouting, "It's long-term care conference time! It's long-term care conference time!"
Now that we know many nursing homes don't meet hand-washing guidelines, let the hand-wringing begin. Hopefully with a generous squirt of anti-microbial sanitizer in the palm first.
Three things we've learned from long-term care news so far this month. Angry Facebook rants can get you into trouble at work. Republican lawmakers would love to defund Obamacare. And nursing home residents are not satisfied with the food or activities. No word yet on whether gravity contributes to falls or pressure to ulcers, but August isn't quite over yet.
More than 100,000 desperate folks wish to move to Mars and never come back. They've even paid an application fee, so they must be serious.
That poor Royal Baby just can't catch a break. What were the odds of His birth occurring within hours of an inebriated Amanda Bynes being accused of trespassing at a Los Angeles long-term care community? Focused as the planet has been on the emotional travails of this renowned actress, it's a wonder anyone even noticed He arrived.
Now and then, I agree to leave my safe, dark hole under the porch and interact face-to-face with actual residents of actual long-term care communities. I did this yesterday, wandering freely through an independent and assisted living campus seemingly inhabited and staffed by levelheaded people who were very glad to be there.
Sure, let's celebrate the Fourth of July. Gorge ourselves on commemorative carcinogens and empty carbs. Blow stuff up day and night. Do whatever we always do, for as long and as loud as we like. But next year, I hope some of those collective energies can be reallocated in support of my exciting holiday initiative — Dependence Day.
Here's one that slipped through the cracks, and I'm beating myself up about it. How did I miss the McKnight's story about Rosalie, the 87-year-old nursing home resident who was trapped in an elevator for more than a day before anyone realized she was missing? I must have been trapped in an elevator or something.
Maybe your dining program can't compete with McDonald's for sheer speed, pseudo nutrition and potentially hazardous toys. But how does your disaster response plan compare? That's the real question.
Will working in long-term care — or anywhere else, for that matter — soon become like flying Samoa Air? It's possible, maybe even likely.
Here's a little medical news that made me sit up straight: People with really bad posture are much more likely to eventually need help with activities of daily living (ADL), according to research published in the Journals of Gerontology.
Imagine if CNN, the most trusted name in news, decided to report on the disappearance of a bottle of window cleaner from a nursing home supply closet. We would first be told it was really several gallons and possibly radioactive, and that window cleaner can be used to build a bomb. And that would be just the start.
The best med aides I've ever seen have an almost spooky knack for getting nursing home residents to take their medicine. It's an art form, really. A mystical mix of command, humor and good, old-fashioned charm.
Better watch your back, people. Gangs of angry, wheelchair-bound residents are screaming at high speeds through our nation's nursing homes, pursuing their mobile vendettas with brutal demonstrations of frontier justice. Or at least they are in Peoria, IL. OK, at least one is. Or was.
How widespread is the adoption of uniforms within the long-term care profession? According to a rigorous and scientific phone survey I conducted of the one nursing home administrator who would take my call this morning, they're required of all nurses, CNAs and dietary and housekeeping staff in her building. To extrapolate that data nationally, I'll let you do the math.
In all the tumult over the Time magazine expose of pervasive and obscene healthcare billing excesses, you might have missed the almost as exciting discovery that foot massages at work lower blood pressure and anxiety for dementia caregivers. At least one snippy McKnight's reader irately claims this isn't "real news." He or she definitely needs a lengthy foot rub, and possibly half a Xanax dissolved in a cup of chamomile tea.
Over in South Korea, precocious robots have been sniffing the air at a few nursing home test sites and neutralizing unwelcome odors. Or at least they were, but now have probably been reassigned to nose around for radioactive effluvium from a nuclear test by a despotic neighbor. Talk about your ultimate call-in.
I recently watched the presidential inauguration from the comfort of a fake leather couch at a car dealership. Over the din of overhead pages for the service department, Sales Manager in Chief Barack Obama was making an aggressive pitch, and I half expected him to finish his speech by asking, "So, America, what can I do to get you into this brand new future today?"