The distraught family had been waiting patiently in the lobby when the long-term care administrator finally arrived, soaked from the rain. A severe storm was approaching, and he was out purchasing extra supplies, making sure every need was met if the power went out. 

Still out of breath, he hung up his dripping poncho, then apologized for being late. But for his visitors, it was the perfect first impression of the place, to see such passion in action — and by its leader, no less. 

The son and daughter before him were reluctantly exploring care options for their 87-year-old mother, whose late-stage dementia challenges could no longer be handled at home. 

After listening to their tragic story, the administrator expressed empathy, as he’d been through the same thing with his own mother. 

“There’s nothing harder than being a caregiver and child at the same time,” he said. “We’ll help you just be her children again.” 

His empathy won them over. Concerns were addressed, promises made. They could provide precisely the services  needed, without question. And he could say that because he also owned the place.

Faced with the final decision, the family knew this was the best of two horrible choices. So they signed the contract and wrote the check. 

She died late one night, not long after admission — within days, in fact.

Over that time, little that was vowed had been delivered, and few promises kept. She passed unexpectedly soon. And that committed leader who told them everything they desperately wanted to hear? They never saw him again. 

It turns out there’s a very good reason this story hits me so hard. Because that was my mom. That was my sister. That was me. 

After working in this profession for more than 20 years, it was my first time as a customer. And still grieving from the experience, I’m grateful for each of you, the countless providers whose actions DO match your mission — and who deliver all the resources, policies and personnel you’ve promised, to ensure your well-intended assurances will always be kept.  

So with each facility tour you give and prospective admission you consider, never forget that families like mine, whose hearts are breaking, cling desperately to every word and promise.

Mere passion is never enough.