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October 1, 2007
by root
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Editor:

Once again the nursing home industry gets a huge public slap in the face. Ouch! It really is painful because the disturbing editorial is written by a “comrade” in the continuum of long-term care.

On one hand, I am extremely embarrassed and disappointed that anyone was subjected to the type of care written about (“A Challenge to Nursing Homes,” August 2007, p. 8). Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches twice a day! Did they have a certified dietary manager or a dietitian available for consultation?

The insinuation that if a family member “rocked the boat” a resident's care would be compromised is frightening. The question coming into my head is “Did you leave your mother in that nursing home?” I don't know where people find nursing homes like you described. In the Midwest, in the northwestern corner of Nebraska, we strive to provide individualized care for each resident and encourage the involvement of family members. You are right when you say we should provide a service to the elderly in our care.

The staff is conscious of the fact that they work where residents live. It is the residents' home in every respect.

Our facility is small, with both nursing facility beds and assisted living units. The staff is caring, competent, and compassionate, and even with the negativism surrounding nursing homes, we will continue providing quality care to our residents.

I am confident that our future in long-term care is not as bleak as the picture painted by this author. The caring providers far outnumber the rest.

Krissa Rucker, AdministratorGordon Countryside CareGordon, Nebraska

Response:

Thanks, Krissa, for your comments. As an owner and operator of senior care communities myself for the past 15 years, I was always tempted to ask, “If they hate it so much here, why don't they move?” whenever anyone expressed a concern—or, worse yet, became a “complainer.”

In my case, we had limited options because of the insurance coverage my mother had (not dissimilar to most Americans). Of the options we had, all of our sources agreed that the nursing home we chose was by far the best. Perhaps this was the fact that concerned me the most. I never doubted that the individuals providing care to my mother were genuinely trying to do the very best job possible. I even believe that the administrator and ownership were trying to provide quality care to the best of their ability. What I experienced as a family member firsthand, however, was simply horrifying. I don't know any way to soften it or to paint it in a positive light because it was not a positive experience. My intention in sharing my story is not, once again, to slap the industry, but to simply share the story and, perhaps in the sharing, work together to find solutions. I do believe there are solutions but, clearly, no matter how positive you believe nursing homes are in your area (I thought they were wonderful in my area, too, because many people in our state have been leaders in culture change activities), we have work to do.

The hopeful part of my story and yours is that, as you point out, most providers are genuinely caring persons. Developing systems that allow personalized care to be delivered to each resident, despite inertia, governmental requirements, and simply the challenge of building a team that is empowered, engaged, and stays, is a huge challenge. It's not enough to be caring; we have to develop systems that change the stories of the people in our care. I won't hide what happened to my family, even though the story is painful and negative, because I have a stake—we all have a stake—in changing those stories.

Keep up the good work—it is good and vital work.

Sharon K. Brothers, MSWPresident/CEOInstitute for Senior Living EducationWest Linn, Oregon

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