Getting down to the bare essentials at LeadingAge 2013

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Staff Writer Tim Mullaney
Staff Writer Tim Mullaney

During the recent government shutdown, federal workers who were deemed “essential” stayed on the job. The situation led to much questioning of just what constitutes an essential service, and some understandable angst on the part of those who were staying at home rather than reporting for duty.

Now that the shutdown is over, it might be tempting to just forget about all the “essential versus inessential” business, but not-for-profit long-term care providers cannot afford to do so. At least, that message came through loud and clear at the LeadingAge annual conference in Dallas yesterday.

David Gehm, the incoming board chairman, kicked off the day by conveying this idea at the general session. Nonprofit providers came into existence to meet essential needs that otherwise would not have been met, Gehm reminded his large audience.

In these challenging times of economic uncertainty and political gridlock, it's important for providers to refocus on this core aspect of their mission, Gehm said.

He challenged providers to ask themselves, “What's the last program that we launched that's meeting unmet needs in our community, that would be absolutely missed if we hadn't done it?”

Larry Minnix, president and CEO of LeadingAge, echoed Gehm later in the day. He praised for-profit chains, particularly for investing in quality through the Advancing Excellence program, but noted that some of these companies are not in a position to provide certain services due to their business model.

“We offer a lot of things you can't monetize,” Minnix told reporters.

Like Gehm, Minnix said that not-for-profit providers ought to be “diagnosing” themselves. He gave the example of a large organization that has put in place a system to demonstrate that its charitable work exceeds the tax benefits it receives.

“That's the kind of thing everybody needs to be looking at,” Minnix said.

Gehm and Minnix might have been speaking specifically about the not-for-profits that make up LeadingAge's membership, but it seems to me that their message is one that all long-term care providers should be contemplating.

With the much ballyhooed “silver tsunami” about to deposit seniors at the admission desks of facilities around the country, it's clear that long-term care itself is an absolutely essential service. However, this does not mean that every provider is guaranteed to flourish in the coming years.

Government workers don't really have the opportunity to win “essential” status — it's granted to them through the vagaries of bureaucracy. But long-term care providers do have the opportunity to gain “essential” status — if they act now to make themselves truly indispensable to the communities they serve.

Tim Mullaney is Staff Writer at McKnight's. Follow him @TimMullaneyLTCN.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.