Each year's a new start

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John O'Connor, Editorial Director
John O'Connor, Editorial Director
We can find many reasons to rejoice in a new year's arrival.

For some, it's simply a chance to say good riddance to the headaches and assorted annoyances that the previous 365 days delivered. For others, each new year arrives like an unopened gift: full of promise and hope.

Many of us begin the year with a list of resolutions that are intended to make us and our lives better. We promise to lose those 20 pounds, to get along better with annoying relatives and to reconnect with old friends. It may be the case that by Jan. 20, the treadmill has resorted to being a clothes hanger, our siblings/spouses/in-laws are pressing on our last nerve, and we haven't yet found the time to look up the old friend's phone number, much less dial it. But at least we're starting with a clean slate.

So it is with long-term care. Veterans in the field know that this can be a messy and challenging line of work. There is always too much to do, and rarely enough to do it with. More often than not, the year ends without hoped for reimbursement improvements, and the wolves continue to circle.

Yet long-term care providers are, if nothing else, full of resilience.

As 2009 begins, it's a good time to hope for a better year ahead. So here's to the following:

• That President Obama will run the Oval Office as well as he ran his campaign.

• That the five-star rating system will be fair.

• That providers will continue to commit to delivering the best care possible.

• That long-term care will not be ignored—by consumers, regulators and lawmakers—except for when there's blame to be spread around.

• That the banking industry won't squander its $700 billion windfall on more empire building.

• That Congress will act to help ease a 100,000-plus person nursing shortage.

• That healthcare will truly be reformed, and that long-term care will be an integral part of that revolution.

• That states won't continue to squeeze providers because they failed to plan for rainy days while their coffers were overflowing.

• That care for our nation's elderly and frail citizens will improve.

Will all these things happen? Perhaps not. But we can hope. After all, it's still early.