What makes a good visit? Good staff

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor

An excellent piece in Gawker, of all places, titled Journalism is Not Narcissism, tackles a troubling idea in media at large - how easy it is, with the subtlety of a blunt ax, to blog about one's life. In our industry, this can result in columns that take on a "look at me, among long-term care providers!"

So while I wasn't going to write about my visits to Life Care Center of Carrollton in Missouri and The Holmstad in Batavia, IL, over the past two weeks, I also thought it wouldn't be fair to the dedicated providers at those facilities NOT to write about the good work they are doing. 

Life Care Center Executive Director Lynn Hayes and Holmstad Associate Administrator Nadia Geigler generously took time out of their busy days recently to show me around.

It would be impossible to list all the good and interesting things in their buildings, from the aviary in the day room at Life Care Center, to the beautiful holiday decorations at the Holmstad. I also saw the construction work being done on an expansive area at the latter that will hold a stage, library and computer area for both the residents and members of community. 

But I wanted to point out two instances that illustrate the difference between possibly good staff and great staff. In the case of Life Care Center, it was the kitchen crew that was particularly impressive. Full disclosure — my grandfather-in-law, Jack Owen, was recently admitted there. Following my official tour as a McKnight's editor on Friday, I returned on Saturday as part of an Owen family delegation for a holiday celebration.

The staff set us up in a small dining area where we could gather as a family. They provided paper utensils, coffee and cups to amend the desserts we had brought, and allowed us to freeze our ice cream. They moved Jack and his chair from his room so he could be comfortable sitting with us for several hours.

You might think these are minor things. But I've been in facilities — and I'm sure you have too — where getting someone to help you, either for finding a kitchen utensil or being lifted, requires nothing short of a Jedi mind trick. I appreciated how everyone on staff could not have been nicer.

At the Holmstad, a continuing care retirement community, the residents themselves were working eagerly on crafts and coffee-klatching. But it was in the SNF section where Geigler showed the difference between being a quality administrator and, well, a reporter.

We encountered a resident sitting at a table waiting for lunch who looked disoriented. After mentioning that she was hungry — Geigler assured her lunch was coming — she said quietly, “I'm lost.” My immediate reaction would have been to say, “Oh, gosh, I'm sorry.” Geigler immediately picked up that the resident knew where she was but was fairly disoriented about time. So she whipped out her smartphone and turned it to the resident, saying, “OK, here's the time and the date. Today is Jan. 3. Would you like some coffee?” Hearing yes, she went to get the coffee herself.

That made it 2-for-2. In both of the cases above, it was great to see good people in action. I was merely a witness to work they do everyday.

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Daily Editors' Notes

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.

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