John O'Connor

There is no denying that change is in the air.

And I’m not just referring to yesterday’s agreement that makes Kindred one of the nation’s largest providers of post-acute and home care services. At last week’s NIC meeting and this week’s AHCA/NCAL convention, a generous sampling of educational sessions offered tips on how best to prep for long-term care 2.0.

Even from the sidelines, this is fairly heady stuff. And it’s fun to speculate how much different the landscape will look in the coming years.

But two things gave me reason to reconsider the field’s rapid advance forward.

One was a conversation I had with a long-timer earlier this week (whose name will be kept out to protect the guilty). He had just emerged, semi-dejected, from a meeting with some of the field’s larger players. His reason for pessimism: They seemed to have abandoned the girl they brought to the dance.

To a man (and woman), these leaders have become consumed with accountable care organizations, bundled payments and how they’ll put the hospitals they don’t partner with out of business, he noted. But they seem to be forgetting about the blocking and tackling that’s at the heart of delivering effective long-term care services, he added.

He seemed to be suggesting that they might need a modern day Hyman Roth to remind them that “this is the business we’ve chosen.

While debating whether my friend had perhaps consumed one cocktail too many, I came across a marvelous profile of Vince Mor, written by colleague Elizabeth Newman. At the risk of being a bit self promotional, the piece will appear in the November issue of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, and it’s well worth a read. Not only does it offer a humanizing look at one of our field’s pre-eminent researchers, it also serves up this salient quote from Dr. Mor:

“There will always be a role for nursing homes in America.”

Two different people, yet a largely similar sentiment.

At its heart, long-term care is a grinder’s business. It’s about answering the bell every day, and delivering hands-on care to folks who cannot fully or even partially take care of themselves. It can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. And yet there it is: an important task that needs to be done.

Yes, it would be shortsighted to inadequately prepare for the work that may be required tomorrow. But in our haste to get ready, let’s not shortchange the important work that needs to be done today.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.