Gary Tetz

Where’s Paul Revere when we need him most? Never mind that his famous ride probably didn’t actually happen. Our long-term care facilities are apparently under ongoing attack by a horde of rats, and we desperately need a hero. Think of the hideous Orcs attacking the good guys at Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings — that’s the sort of scourge we’re facing. 

Of course, our profession has tackled challenges before. This is nothing new. We’ve dealt with funding and regulatory woes, conflicted politicians and misguided Senate hearings, PDPM and squirrels running wild in activity rooms. But if the Orkin pest control people are right, it’s worse than we thought. 

Especially if your facility is in Chicago. On the company’s list of the Top 10 Rattiest Cities, that quaint little community has topped the list for the fifth year in a row. The good news is that with the Bears in evident regression, this is at least one championship each year the Windy City can count on. 

Personally, rodents of any kind create within me deep feelings of horror and revulsion, so I was alarmed to see Portland, OR, not far down the list at #22. My first thought echoed the immortal words of Indiana Jones: “Rats. Why did it have to be rats?” At the same time, I’m plagued with a love for all God’s creations, which you’ll recall led me to help a rat-like creature escape my window well a while back. So it’s a cognitive dissonance that’s tearing me apart inside.

But on a purely practical level, what should a long-term care facility do to escape the impending rat scourge, short of building a big beautiful wall, or digging a moat and filling it with alligators and snakes? You’ll have to do something, and fast, because this could quickly spiral out of control. 

You’ll have rats trying to attend standup. Then they’ll unionize and demand gluten-free meals. They’ll expect private rooms, and in the interests of self-preservation will seek to undermine PDPM — the Panic Driven Poison Model. The salon schedule will be overrun with rats seeking pompadours and shaggy pixies, and they’ll be sneaking into the therapy gym to play the OmniVR at night. 

Preventing a rat infestation won’t be easy, as experts say they can sneak through openings the size of a quarter, and mice the size of a dime. Orkin suggests inspecting both inside and outside the facility for rodent droppings, which certainly takes the multi-faceted job of an administrator to a new low and could inhibit leadership recruitment efforts. 

So is it hopeless? Absolutely not. But with everything else you have on your plate right now, maybe it’s best not to fight it, and just add them to your pet therapy program. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press 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.