Part 2: Our Thoughts: Frontline's“Life and Death in Assisted Living”

Posted by: Nikki Buckelew

In a recent blog about the Frontline and ProPublica report on “Life and Death in Assisted Living” which aired on PBS, I shared my initial thoughts and I would love to hear yours, so be sure to leave comments in the comment section below. 


Being a caregiver

Most people didn’t sign up for the role of the caregiver -- it was thrust upon them by unforeseen circumstances at a time in their life that they least expected it. 

We have a close friend who is currently caring for his wife after she was recently diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease. Sadly, their life changed in an instant -- he became a caregiver and she became a patient. They are in their 60’s. 

Preparing for the role of caregiver is not something we learn about in high school or college. We learn by trial and error -- by necessity and through crisis. Isn’t it time we prepare for what most of us can expect to be a role we likely play at some point in our lives? 

Getting old

Fact: The alternative to getting old is dying. 

Most of us choose getting old over dying, but how many of us plan for what life will be like when we “arrive.” 

The Frontline report featuring Emeritus, the largest assisted living provider in the U.S., was both informative and disheartening. The families interviewed were clearly loving caregivers and did the best they could for their loved ones. Sadly, none of them were prepared or equipped to choose adequate care as their parents aged. The result of this is that they succumbed to the marketing and sales efforts of a for-profit business called assisted living. 

Sales is sales

It was clear from the interviews done by Frontline that the sales counselors at Emeritus Assisted Living communities are hired as salespeople -- their job is to fill apartments -- period. It isn’t their job to counsel families, coach people about options, or mediate family decision making. Their job is to rent apartments and their ability to keep the job depends upon it. 

I have met with many disappointed and disillusioned former sales counselors with hearts of gold, great people skills, and excellent sales ability who left their job because they just couldn’t stand by day in and day out and watch as residents received less than adequate care -- care that was promised to them when they rented the apartment. 

Reality check 

Not all assisted living communities are under staffed and focused only on filling apartments. 

There are plenty of excellent communities, including Emeritus communities, that provide excellent care and are resident centered. It’s about leadership. As Dr. John Maxwell says, “It’s always about leadership.” 

With the right people at the helm, communities are staffed with the “right” people in key positions. Great leaders will “do the right thing” when it comes to patient care regardless of corporate profits and they will figure out a way to insure their goals are met while keeping resident care at the forefront. 



Challenges present opportunities

If it isn’t clear by now, I’m not sure how else to convey it – As a Seniors Real Estate Institute graduate, you bring such great value to both seniors and their caregivers. 

By being aware and informed about ALL senior living options, you become a trusted advisor and fiduciary for your clients. As author, David Solie reminds us, you can be their “Legacy Coach” by helping them plan ahead and make informed decisions. When you give, you receive. 

As we discuss in Success in Seniors Real Estate, being “all about seniors” means that you are more than just a REALTOR, you are a fiduciary -- a trusted advisor, friend, and partner. 

The other thing you learned in your course is how to add value to senior living communities and create reciprocal partnerships. Consider what you learned by watching the Frontline report on assisted living communities and ask yourself the question: “How can I add value to senior communities such that I help them to be the best that they can be for their residents?”

If you haven’t watched the program aired on PBS, you can do so online. I recommend you approach it with an open mind and a caring heart… and be sure to share your thoughts with us. 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Gandhi


Watch the Video Below

Watch Life and Death in Assisted Living on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.



 




Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment. 


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