The focus of aging services over the next decade should be redefining age, improving practices, innovating solutions and transforming policy, the leader of a top senior care association declared Wednesday.

“We have outdated beliefs about aging — that it’s a peak and decline,” said LeadingAge President and CEO Larry Minnix, speaking at the LeadingAge Illinois annual conference in Rosemont, IL. “What is the authentic story?”

Minnix reminded the crowd that dual-eligibles and the elderly poor and sick are costing the most. Up to 70% of families will face caring for an elderly relative or child with a disability, he added.

Ultimately, those in a residential setting “want to know: ‘Has my life been worthwhile?’”

A person wants “To face my maker and say ‘I did the best I could,’” Minnix explained.

Nonprofit long-term care businesses have an obligation to be a guardian of values, meet the needs of a community, be a creator of capital and “be ‘the voice,’” Minnix added. He noted that this is his last LeadingAge Illinois conference, at least as the national organization’s top exec, due to his impending retirement later this year.

Sessions at the conference also tackled quality, technology, assisted living, infection control and more. At a session about Nursing Home Compare and QAPI, Telligen senior quality improvement facilitator Lisa Bridwell noted that following the system’s rebasing, 28% of nursing homes lost a star. Three percent lost two stars overall, but 2% gained two stars.

She encouraged providers concentrate on what can be done now with staffing data and quality measurements.

“What we have heard at QIOs is sometimes staff did not include all they could,” she said. With staffing levels being put under the microscope, under the IMPACT Act, there will be a changes. “In a year, there will be more validation,” she warned.

In the arena of performance improvement, fellow presenter Susan Duda Gardiner, BSN, RN, LNHA, said “it is culture change, it is systematic.”

“It’s data-driven and proactive and involves all members,” she said. “That means staff, residents, family members and the guy who delivers your milk. It’s everybody.”

In a legal session focusing on assisted living challenges, Polsinelli attorneys Matthew Murer and Kathryn Stalmack said common allegations include medication being administered by unlicensed staff, the wrong medications being used, neglect, understaffing, and improper termination of a resident.

With the last, family members often may protest if they do not understand the resident needs more skilled care.

“Make sure you are maintaining open lines of community,” Stalmack said. “There’s a lot of denial.”

Other allegations include misappropriation of funds, resident injury, resident-to-resident abuse and an absences of latex gloves for certified nursing assistants.

While assisted living regulations can vary by state, Murer said that nationally, one-third of emergency department visits involving adverse drug events are related to warfarin, insulin or digoxin.

The era of bundled payments and cooperation between healthcare entities means assisted living facilities should be looking at partnerships, Murer emphasized.

“Assisted living has been its own island, and it has been a good island, but the water around it is changing,” he said.