John O’Connor

My favorite holiday is almost here.

Thanksgiving is that one day of the year when we can — and should — be thankful for the bounty we enjoy, courtesy of this great country of ours.

And make no mistake: Warts and all, the United States is a great country. To be sure, it is far from perfect. And there are improvements to be made. But all in all, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Still, long-term care operators might be forgiven for feeling a bit less than grateful these days.

For any way you slice it, recent years have been real character builders. COVID-19 reduced occupancy, drove up costs and resulted in many thousands of resident and staff deaths and illnesses. While the virus was rifling through facilities, staffing challenges went from difficult to bleak.

And even before the pandemic arrived, this sector was not exactly living large on holiday.

Despite notable increases in the geriatric population, there has been virtually no new skilled nursing construction to speak of for the past half-decade or so. And it seems hardly a month goes by without a big player announcing a reduction in skilled care holdings, if not outright divestiture. Moreover, it’s not like good times are just around the corner.

None of these realities are what might be called hopeful signs.

So why do you as a long-term care provider keep doing it? Sure, there’s the obvious reason — economic necessity. But there are surely easier ways to earn as much if not more income.

I think the real driver for many in this field is a desire to make a positive difference for others who need help.

How else do you explain the routinely heroic deeds that take place in this sector? Or the countless employees who put in extra time and effort, often without recognition or additional financial compensation?

Many people reach the ends of their careers and wonder if they made a real contribution. Long-term care providers don’t have that problem.

You truly make a difference. Every. Single. Day. For all you do, please accept my sincere thanks.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s