Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

Many milestones come and go — a birthday perhaps, the start of the new year, even. Then there are some that seem to be meaningful. Today, the first day of autumn, seems to fall into that category.

We have been hearing for several weeks now how this fall, when flu season makes its annual comeback, will be like no other, with COVID-19 still in full swing, and the two illnesses being difficult to tell apart from each other. It seems as if the next few months, in keeping with this time of year, will be dark. There may be many more cases of COVID-19, an untold number of deaths, continued hard times for staff, and still more struggle ahead.

There no doubt is a lot to feel down about. But in the midst of all this, while people continue to quarantine, wear face masks and socially isolate, we also can use this seasonal turning point to take stock of the good that has happened amid or in light of the pandemic. (It seems fitting that the beginning of the season this year falls during the Days of Awe, a time when Jews reflect on how they have erred and what they can do better in the coming year.)

In this spirit, we can look at the way staff have rallied, families have found new ways to communicate and residents have joined the fight. An example of the latter fell into my inbox the other day from Three Pillars Senior Communities in Dousman, WI. Please see this touching public service message from residents there:


Another example of the positive that has occurred as a result of the pandemic can be found in the recent release of the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes’ report. Some have said it is a repeat of what we have seen before — yet another commission report that will end up going nowhere.

I, for one, think it represents what is truly possible for this field. Beyond providing concrete recommendations to testing and personal protective equipment and cohorting, it says, loudly and clearly, this industry needs to change. The report articulates the flaws of a grossly underpaid staff, outdated buildings and a fragment payment system.

Here is one of my favorite passages (from page v):

“The time has come for a turning point in nursing home care. The Commission envisions a person-centered, resilient system of care that is better for the next generation — one that more deeply values and respects older adults and people with disabilities as vital to the fabric of American society.”

Things are not easy. Tough times are ahead. We will persevere because that is the only way. But who knows? We may just come out in a better place after this crisis. As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Liza Berger is Senior Editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Follow her @LizaBerger19.