James M. Berklan

We don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the ways things were lousy at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As long-term care professionals, you know better than anyone in the country what type of horrible damage this virus can do to frail, elderly individuals. 

But you also have shown the way the human spirit can rise in the face of daunting odds and frightening work conditions. In fact, so many providers rose above the occasion, the population of Tuscaloosa, AL, probably doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to count them. This was reinforced over the last few days while performing a final review of 2021 McKnight’s Tech Awards entries. You might have already noticed that we announced the “short lists” of finalists in each category today.

The submissions poured in this spring from skilled nursing halls, senior living communities and home health providers.

The pride was obvious by the sheer number. The depth of quality shined through upon reading them. I was thrilled to see how many creative efforts led to better communication with residents’ family members during the pandemic’s isolation months. There also were extra miles of activities added, and countless extra hours spent trying to make communications or record keeping smoother. What a joy to see the innovation and energy in play.

Then a somber mood set in. Because even though we’re going to give Gold, Silver and Bronze in every category we can, there’s simply no way we could award medals to all who might deserve them. This is like the Olympics of long-term care: World-class professionals all over the place but only three of them will get a medal in our skilled nursing and senior care divisions, and fewer in our fledgling home care division.

It’s bittersweet: So much uplifting greatness at work but the ability to reward only some of it. So let me emphasize now that the industry has a lot to be proud of, judging by the initiative and creativity displayed in just the fraction of entries that I witnessed.

I urge everyone to be there for the unveiling of the award winners during the free online awards ceremony Aug. 25. You can register here.

I also recommend that any non-Gold medalists enter again next spring with updated information. History has shown that sometimes the second time’s the charm. There likely will be another extremely competitive lot of entries, and that might eventually mean some disappointed non-winners, of course. But overall, it will also mean more reasons to take immense pride in the creativity and hard work of industry stakeholders.

For now, I’m choosing to bask in the great satisfaction that while pandemic conditions were devastating in so many ways, there also was a steady beat of quality care and innovation faithfully pulsing through the heart of the industry.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News’ Editors Notes are the author’s and not necessarily those of McKnight’s.