John O'Connor

By any standard, much of what’s being reported about nursing homes these days could hardly be considered good news.

If it’s not the New York Times exposing flaws in the Five Star ratings system, it’s the Iowa Gazette reporting that staff turnover exceeds 40% across the Hawkeye State. Or it’s the Hartford Courant noting that eight facilities have each been fined more than $1,000 for care-related issues.

I could point out many additional examples, but the point is made: There’s a lot of bad coverage out there.

It would be foolish of me to criticize any of those stories, as they stand on their own merits. All appear to be accurate and fair. But do they tell the whole story of what is happening at most communities each day? Hardly.

The reality is that most operators are doing their level best to deliver the most professional care possible, usually under very challenging circumstances. Of course, routinely doing one’s job well is not the sort of thing that tends to get splashed across Page 1.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see some recent industry-related copy that goes against the usual grain. Take, for example, a guest column in a New Jersey community paper called the Sentinel. “Ten qualities of a great nursing home” was written by Fern Marder, who happens to be the marketing communications manager for Parker Homes, which is based in the Garden State.

For the record, she notes that great facilities offer:

  • A sense of community
  • A comfortable environment
  • A home-like atmosphere
  • Person-centered living
  • Around-the-clock skilled care
  • Outdoor spaces
  • Meaningful activities
  • Excellent food that’s nutritious
  • Anytime visitation
  • Amenities such as hair salons/barber shops, health and wellness centers and libraries.

To be sure, these are all important attributes. And you can learn about them in greater detail by reading the entire article here.

But if your only takeaway is the advice she offers, you may be missing a larger opportunity. For what Marder accomplished here is both noteworthy and repeatable. She reached out to a local media outlet, and she was able to present useful information that presents the field — and more specifically, her employer — in a positive light.

It’s easy to grouse about how unfair and biased media coverage tends to be. And the criticism often is not without merit. But there’s no reason why you can’t follow Marder’s lead and play a role in the way media outlets are presenting information that has your name on it.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.