Who will be pronounced the bad guy in this nursing home crime?

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

The news flashed across my screen and immediately I said to myself, “This type of headline could be very bad for nursing home operators … or maybe just kind of bad.”

“Stanwood nursing home shooter, 87, felt bullied.” Other variations of the headline out of Washington state quickly started flowing around the Internet. A form of “bully” was in every one of them. Not "abused" or "mistreated" but bullied.

What intrigues me most is how members of the public and general media will interpret the headlines and story line.

What was reported early is this: A long-term care resident told police he had felt bullied by an employee at his facility, so he shot him with a pistol he sneaked in.

An investigation is underway. Who is the public liable to sympathize? A needy, vulnerable member of society who might have been mistreated by someone he probably didn't like at a place he probably didn't want to live? Or a man described as a supervisor in his upper-50s who had numerous residents to take care of? One early account had the facility's CEO vehemently denying the resident had ever been mistreated.

This story, of course, has many potentially sensitive undercurrents. The shooter could be suffering from dementia, or just might have had a bad day. One way or another, it seems he took pains enough to plan out the assault, and do it with his own personal handgun. Guns are not allowed in the facility.

No doubt, authorities will do a background check, ask questions of those who know him well and also interrogate him — the employee, that is.

Until officials come out with a rock-solid statement, expect public speculation to swirl as to who was in the right and who was wrong. Of course, frail, elderly residents need protecting. But what about the long-term care employee? How will public perception treat the caregiver?

Oh, by the way, he survived.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.