Long-term care operators have many good reasons to keep resident falls to an absolute minimum. Yet it's amazing how blasé we've become about the damage that falls inflict.
Most people have some quirky food issue, whether it's gagging at the smell of fish or a hatred of condiments. I'll confess mine: I detest raw apples. Apple cider, applesauce, apple pie — they're all OK. But start slicing a regular apple in front of me or bite into one, and it's all I can do to not run out of the room. It's a texture issue, perhaps stemming from years in braces where I felt like I looked like Hannibal Lecter and developed a high level of nerve sensitivity in my teeth.
My first thought was one of concern: What had gone so wrong that one of the most esteemed long-term care providers in New York had to change its name? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? What was broken?
Easier said than done. That phrase often pops into my head when I read the latest long-term care research.
Should we be shocked to hear that the business office manager of a nursing home in Michigan allegedly stole more than $460,000 from a resident? Probably not. And that's not a narrow comment on skilled nursing operators.
The audience member had a question that in previous years would have been found at the corner of Blasphemy and Crazytalk. She wanted to know whether it would be advisable to drop skilled care from her nonprofit organization's portfolio. Not too long ago, that might have been like Toyota asking if it should make cars without seats.
Singing "Amazing Grace" or playing a ukelele version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" may not immediately spring to mind as ways to help staff members grieve after a resident has died, but they were among the musical tributes healthcare professionals shared during a LeadingAge session Wednesday.
As readers of this blog may recall, my expectations for the special screening of the new documentary about music superstar Glen Campbell's journey with Alzheimer's disease were high. Sunday night's star-studded showing and concert were to be unlike anything long-term care professionals had experienced before. And they were.
"Will your app deliver subliminal messages to my residents?" I did not hear that question yesterday while I wandered the expo hall at the annual LeadingAge conference. But perhaps I will next year.
To get an idea of why different fiscal rules seem to apply to the long-term care sector, look no further than Netflix.
It's not hard to see why the Ebola outbreak has so many of us on edge. It's sort of like the proverbial monster under the bed. Except this time, the monster is no figment of our imagination. And now it appears ready to pounce on us.
Good news for career nurses with bachelor's degrees: You're killing it compared to teachers, journalists and high school graduates.
While there seems to be some disagreement over Malcolm Gladwell's posit that doing something for 10,000 hours will make you a master at it, the idea that practice leads at least to improvement has received another shot in the arm. (That would be hospice providers you hear cheering in the background.)
Doctors have a lot to learn about long-term care."Duh," you say? Fair enough. But a newly published study and a just released book really drive the point home.
There is no denying that change is in the air. And I'm not just referring to yesterday's agreement that makes Kindred one of the nation's largest providers of post-acute and home care services.
By the end of the day Tuesday, after a week full of educational sessions, it took a lot to break through the clutter in my brain. That moment happened when Kyle Henderson made a slightly throw-away comment about some providers "investing in chefs, paying them $70-, $80-, $90,000. That's where we are seeing innovation in programming, because dining gives them a chance to impress three times a day."
What do you call a 77-year-old who has worked with — indeed BEEN one of — the most powerful people in the world, traveled the globe extensively, served his country with honor for decades and then charms, compliments and entertains you for over an hour — without the help of a teleprompter? The perfect keynote speaker for your conference, that's what.
Messages about how the long-term care sector exists to serve the neediest and most vulnerable can seem hollow here at the Gaylord National hotel, with its high-end steakhouse and a breathtaking glass atrium offering stunning Potomac River views.
Most of us are all too aware of our professional friends and enemies. But not so much when it comes to our "frenemies." Given the many changes taking place in healthcare today, the frenemy list for many long-term care operators is expanding as never before.
If you went to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care conference for the first time three years ago, as I did, you'd be forgiven for recognizing its importance, but agreeing with the sentiment that it's a "WORM" (White Old Rich Men) crowd.
At the risk of sounding like a common shill, I cannot remember when I've more eagerly looked forward to an annual trade show than the upcoming LeadingAge gathering in Nashville. The main focus of my anticipation? The Oct. 19 world premier screening of "Glenn Campbell ... I'll be me," a powerful documentary about the music superstar who has Alzheimer's disease and now resides in a long-term care facility.
Nursing homes would be put out of business if scientists discover how to stop the aging process, McKnight's Editorial Director John O'Connor wrote in his blog yesterday. But the reverse is also true: Nursing homes would find their beds empty if many seniors were to die earlier in life — because, say, they start refusing antibiotics for common infections, as Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., plans to do once he turns 75.
What if people could remain sound of body and mind into ages of, well, biblical proportions? That elusive goal has captured the imagination of windmill chasers and serious thinkers for time immemorial. The latest seeker of note is not your typical crackpot. Unless a hedge fund manager with a medical degree from Harvard might be considered a crackpot.
For an industry that spends so much time dealing with death, we know surprisingly little.
The reasons to pursue more robust data-crunching activities keep growing. Especially for long-term care providers, who could have a leg up on other providers and payers.
Long-term care providers should take pride in their antipsychotic reduction efforts, and certainly should work hard to meet the new goals announced Friday. But it should not escape their notice that just a day earlier, the White House released an ambitious national plan for addressing antibiotic resistant infections. The plan suggests that a facility's antibiotic stewardship is about to join its antipsychotics rate as a defining feature of quality in the eyes of the government.
Seems like it is was only a few weeks ago that the New York Times was blasting the nursing home industry for playing fast and loose with staffing numbers. Now comes a state-by-state report card that essentially says chronic understaffing is undermining care.
First and foremost, the NIC conference is a conduit that links those with money to those who need it. The event also features informative educational sessions that delve into where the market is now, and what operators need to do in order to compete down the road.
There's a looming massive report on all the hospital readmissions data in your area and the strategic plan your facility needs to pursue. It involves talking to lots of employees, gathering data, doing statistics and the actual writing, not to mention proofreading, and having your boss sign off on it. It's due Oct. 15.
It's said that politics, among other things, makes for strange bedfellows. Add long-term care quality improvement efforts to the list.
The provider community can sound downright oxymoronic when it comes to the five-star rating system for nursing homes.
Ask skilled care or senior living operators about their biggest operational challenge, and the answer is almost always the same: keeping the place full. A new investigation of the way many operators deal with prospects shows that there's a lot of room for improvement.
Even if you're not a baseball fan, you're probably familiar with the notion of three strikes and you're out. If a lawmaker has his way, it's an approach that might be soon get applied to troubled facilities — and perhaps to other nursing homes as well.
I thought writing in a journal to recap my day would be more trouble than it's worth. That was before I went on a two-week vacation halfway around the world. But you don't have to travel that far to make it worthwhile too.
Don't let anyone tell you that long-term care operators don't know how to read between the lines. They might not have known to fear a McKnight's Monday news item before it broke, but it definitely has their attention — and apprehension — now.
If you're a leader at a long-term care facility, you're constantly trying to promote persistence in the face of obstacles. Maybe you're trying to motivate a patient to progress with therapy or a struggling nurse aide to improve on the job. I've got one magic word that could help in this effort: Control.
By any standard, much of what's being reported about nursing homes these days could hardly be considered good news. I could point out many examples, but the point is clear: There's a lot of bad coverage out there. So I was pleasantly surprised to see some recent industry-related copy that goes against the usual grain.
Given certain realities about skilled-nursing facility inspections, we should not be wondering why cheating has occurred. Rather, we should be amazed it hasn't been more rampant.
I remember with a sad chuckle the way my German friend Volker felt that American news coverage during one of his visits was too narrowly focused. Where, for example, were the stories about the Iraq-Iran war? he wondered.
I'm here to suggest that providers start seeking out nurses who are not even motivated mainly by the desire to help other people.
You had to know this was coming. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that many nursing homes are submitting massaged staffing and quality indicator data to the feds. The alleged reason? So facilities could pull better Five Star ratings.
Whoever dreamed up the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge should be given a medal — and immediately hired to speak at the next long-term care association conference. Such creativity and that kind of Midas touch don't come along often.
There are many parts of attending annual big conferences that I love, from seeing old industry friends to attending good sessions. But I also, not so secretly, love the exhibit halls — for several reasons.
A pall hangs over this sector at the moment, thanks to the New York Times.
What's in a name? That's a fairly topical question, given the many differing views on how best to describe the business we're in. Not that this field's identity crisis is a recent development.
This week's blockbuster deal has private equity-backed Genesis HealthCare combining with Skilled Healthcare Group.In some ways, these sorts of marriages seem all but inevitable. After all, in the outcomes-based post-acute world that's emerging, size and scale are the flavors du jour.
Hey, did you hear the one about the long-term care conference that was scheduled on Christmas? Of course you didn't, because it would never happen.
Much like a parent raising a child — a topic on my mind this week as I send my oldest son to college — dedicated advocates have long encouraged long-term care providers to do the best they can. This week, there's evidence that the effort has paid off, in seeing how many providers earned honors from the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.
Long-term care professionals around the country cheered wildly last week when the Food and Drug Administration approved Belsomra, a new sleep drug. Shift workers applauded the addition to their medicine cabinets, already well-stocked with sleep aids. "I've tried melatonin and Ambien, but I didn't feel great on either one of those dr—" said certified nursing assistant Susie Sleepless, interrupted by a yawn.
Leaders in this field seem to have an unquenchable thirst for new insights.
There was a time when reading Gary Larson's "The Far Side" was an essential part of my daily routine. Yes, the now-defunct strip was a bit quirky, but it was almost always good for a laugh.
Long-term care may be a calling, but it's still a job, and it's an industry that would be served by a reduction of emotion. That's especially true when discussing the government, which is called out in histrionic terms fairly often.
Writers are expected to promote their work, especially blog posts like this, virtually any way they can. But I'll admit maybe this one isn't for you. After all, you're likely working in or around the long-term care profession and if that doesn't give reason to complain, I don't know what does.
The White House has not banned arbitration agreements in long-term care. But if a recent executive order got providers thinking about life without these contract provisions, that might be a good thing.
When I accepted a summer internship at McKnight's, I thought writing and editing skills were all it would take to fulfill this position. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.
What if every state had its own language, currency and traffic signals? Life could get a lot more complicated once you ventured into another jurisdiction.
Much like one of my tabby cats, one of my favorite spots to lounge and read in my house is in front of a large horizontal window, in full sunlight. In my McKnight's office, I recently restructured furniture to try to maximize natural light, in case the cats stop by to visit.
Depending on how you like to interpret the news, nursing home operators are either facing some of the worst of times, or they've been infused with new life.
In reporting on lawsuits against long-term care providers, I've spoken to plaintiffs' lawyers who rival Stephen King in their descriptions of misery and gore. So I understand why nursing home operators worry about juries being swayed by a gruesome depiction of a bad pressure ulcer rather than the facts of a case. New research shows that these concerns are justified — but it also gives hope to long-term care operators facing unfair accusations.
As my colleague Tim Mullaney reported last week, the Government Accountability Office has been taking a closer look at Medicaid bed taxes lately. And the investigative arm of Congress doesn't seem to care much for the view.
As never before, data collection and analytics have become part and parcel of long-term care. Even midsize and smaller operators are sifting through amazingly granular information to document strengths, address weaknesses and unearth new opportunities. It's all fantastic stuff.
Some apps - like those that are meant to track blood pressure or give medication reminders - are geared toward your future residents. And that's where the trouble can arise, according to a group of experts writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A man recently raised more than $51,000 ... to make potato salad. And in a similar type of online campaign, senior living investment company Mainstreet raised more than $1.6 million in four weeks through a crowdfunding website.
When politicians talk about Medicaid funding and nursing homes these days, an unsettling theme often emerges: the need to spend less of the former on the latter.
There is no draft in senior living, nor really a need for one. But what if its three most dominant players were to be sized up? How might the scouts rate skilled care, assisted living and home care, respectively? My guess is their reports might look something like this:
It's not a secret most county nursing homes are hemorrhaging money. That's why I was intrigued by a Butler County (OH) proposal to allow heroin addicts to stay short-term in the county-owned nursing home. I believe it's a good idea.
If someone were to complain that long-term care has become a "same old, same old" scene, you might be inclined to agree. Staffing, reimbursement, over-regulation — they're all ongoing challenges — well, OK, outright problems. And they're not the only ones. But things clearly are not the same.
There are plenty of developments that can force you to reconsider the way you do business. Whether it's merger/acquisition fallout, notable court rulings, additional regulatory guidance or legislation being introduced, new stuff is constantly hitting the proverbial fan.
Like perhaps many of you, I come from a long line of "fixers." Multiple people whose schedules are conflicting? We'll coordinate. Someone isn't able to find a job? We'll provide help on their resume and introduce them around. A friend needs a boyfriend? Let me show you my multi-step PowerPoint plan.
Heading out on vacation soon? If not, well maybe you ought to. No, you know you ought to. One way or another, you should be getting away from the office sometime soon, but you're probably going to do a poor job of it.
It's no secret that aging Americans increasingly are attracted to assisted living, but recent developments in this country and others suggest they also have a growing interest in assisted dying. Long-term care providers should take note.
Too many long-term care operators let potential "noble" payoffs get in the way of basic marketplace realities when it comes to pondering why staff turnover is so high.
It has been said that we are the residue of our choices. If that's true, what should we make of the Supreme Court these days?
It's tough for nursing homes to attract good certified nursing assistants or aides. It's even harder when rumors abound about the mistreatment of those on the lower end of the power and pay scale. It's practically impossible when there is a belief a nursing home miay punish those for sincerely held religious beliefs.
At first blush, news that a new breakthrough Alzheimer's study had found an 87% success rate was, well, irritating. Why not closer to 100% or at least 90%? Although many media types splashed news of the hopeful British study, others collectively grumbled. "Get back to us when you have something truly solid to report," they seemed to say.
McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.
James M. Berklan
Elizabeth Leis Newman