John O’Connor

Control the controllables. It’s universal advice for navigating challenges and developing mental toughness. But what are long-term care operators supposed to do when almost everything seems to be spinning out of control?

Take last week. Really, take it. Nobody around here wants to go near it. It was quite terrible, actually.

Spurinna wasn’t joking when he warned Caesar to beware the Ides of March. Too bad the soothsayer didn’t show up in Washington last week to give industry officials a similar heads-up. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Crapola Week actually kicked off on Saturday, courtesy of an incriminating New York Times story. Among its more alarming accusations: Many nursing homes have been submitting inflated staffing reports, in a brazen attempt to get better grades on the Nursing Home Compare website. It should be noted that if the allegations hold up, they are pretty damning.

In the wake of the Gray Lady’s latest letter d’amour, California is already taking action. The state’s attorney general is suing the pants off Brookdale Senior Living, seeking heavy fines and other acts of contrition.

And that was a mere prelude to what transpired later, in the halls of Congress. As my colleague Jim Berklan noted, a midweek Senate Finance Committee hearing was like something right out of the Star Chamber. Lawmakers, consumer groups and others broke out the hitting sticks, while nursing homes wore the piñata costume. It was not a pleasant scene.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also snapped off a piece of that action by insinuating (incorrectly, as it turned out) that Genesis HealthCare was using pandemic-relief funds to feather an outgoing CEO’s retirement nest.

As the anti-industry carnage piled up, I was reminded of Steve McCroskey (played by Lloyd Bridges) in the movie “Airplane.”  When events in the film get more chaotic, he mentions a litany of bad habits he picked a bad time to give up. They included drinking, cigarettes, glue sniffing and amphetamines. Nobody could blame you for knowing exactly how he feels.

Of course, his lines were intended to deliver maximum comedic effect. If you are a long-term care operator, what transpired last week probably won’t give you much to laugh about.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.