Gary Tetz

Speculation is rampant about what PDPM really stands for. One of the most trusted and revered voices in the long-term care profession, a bald Canadian named me, has suggested it’s the Payment-Driven Panic Model. My esteemed editor even wrote a whole column attempting to settle the issue.

But after receiving a flash of unexpected insight straight from the universe, I can finally answer the question definitively. The P is for ’possum. And, yes, there’s a story to tell.

I’m not brave. So ’round midnight one evening recently, when I heard a sinister scratching sound on my basement bedroom window, it got my full attention. So much so that I immediately took an Ambien, pulled the covers over my head, and quivered myself back to sleep.

Understand, there was no way was I opening the curtain, or going outside at that hour to see what it was. The glass is a portal to a window well about three feet deep. So whatever the creature was, it was trapped and frightened, and I wasn’t about to have my arm masticated and removed by what I believed to almost certainly be a rabid, saber-toothed wolverine.

Brad the Opossum visits the author. (Gary Tetz photo)

So after a slumber of denial, waking in the dawn with a sudden flood of courage, I peeked out like a terrified 5-year-old checking under the bed for monsters. What I saw chilled me to the core — an adorably ugly baby opossum.

I don’t know how he got there, and don’t speak fluent rodent. But I imagine he was out wandering with his family, got distracted by his electronic device, as modern children do, and simply fell in. One second he was there, the next, not. “Brad?” called Mother Possum, with growing urgency. “Brad!” Then she apparently moved on with her life.

Short story shorter, though compassion and rescue were imperatives, I certainly wasn’t going to rappel down, wrap my arms around his stubbly neck and hoist us back up. So being a clever boy, I found a board in the shed and lowered the crude ramp into position. After a few failed attempts, he finally scampered up and out, as documented in this gripping, emotional and poorly-focused Escape from Ratcatraz video.

Three important lessons can be drawn from my real-life PDPossuM experience:

  1. Playing dead won’t help. That old possum trick won’t work in this new payment environment. PDPM isn’t going away. The possum himself didn’t even try it.
  2. You’re going to fall off. Do your best, get ready to fail a few times and wear a helmet.
  3. No one’s going to save you. You might find a slippery ramp leading into the sunshine of success and survival, but you’ll still have to climb it yourself.

So congratulations! Thanks to the perseverance of that opossum, you just saved a bundle in consulting fees. And by the way, he’s accepted the keynote slot at the next AHCA national convention, and is available to speak at your next stand-up — for a small fee I’ll be glad to accept on his behalf.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.