As Director of Marketing at a high end senior living community, I helped many seniors and their families navigate the detailed and complex requirements demanded by industry and state regulators.
The labyrinth of forms, medical requirements, calls, emails, text messages, tours, lunches, re-tours, and many phone calls at all hours of the day, night, and holidays from desperate family members looking for a nurturing and caring guide to help them place their parent or loved one in a safe, friendly, warm environment were never ending but always welcomed.
Meeting a family for the first time was a thrill and a new puzzle to unravel, a new kaleidoscope in which to find a pattern, a new equation to solve. There is a certain thrill in meeting a skeptical family for the first time and hearing them discuss their needs, and their parent’s needs—I had to listen for both because we are not only trying to satisfy seniors, but also their adult children who are incredibly demanding advocates for their loved one.
As they should be.
Diane wanted to move her dad from Washington to California. He and her mom had retired in Washington State following his career as a professional hockey player. After her mom’s death, Diane wanted her dad closer to her. His memory was failing, he was diagnosed with dementia and was all alone far away from her and the remainder of his family.
We spent three months together working through the move-in process. Moving a senior is always hard, then add on dementia, airports, covid restrictions, and masking requirements, and you can imagine all the confusion and stress she and her dad experienced.
But Diane did it, and we welcomed her dad, Dave, to the community one Saturday afternoon. We’d decorated his room with his favorite hockey memorabilia and family pictures, put his favorite treats and snacks on his counters, placed his wife’s favorite flowers at his table in the dining area, and played his favorite movie that night. All of the welcome amenities were a surprise to Diane—it is how we did things, because we are welcoming Diane in as much as we were welcoming in Dave.
Dave was an easy resident to care for. He was a large, strapping man, but long past his hockey-playing days. His hockey career had taken a toll on his brain and his legs and knees, so that he could no longer stand or walk. He spent all day in a wheelchair, needed help transferring from bed to chair, toilet, shower chair, and needed help dressing and undressing. He only took a few medications, mostly for sleep assistance, and the caregivers liked spending time with him. He was only sixty-four but as an avid hockey player since childhood, his brain endured… a lot. I cannot say that his dementia was caused by repeated head blows for thirty years but I have strong suspicions. On most days the large quiet man with the soft voice would say hello to me. Though he didn’t know the names of most of the staff, he had remembered mine.
The staff noticed that every day around four o’clock Dave would wheel himself to a wall and stop and stare. He would sit there for fifteen to thirty minutes, every day without fail. He wouldn’t talk or show much emotion. He would just sit and stare at the blank wall. One day as I walked the community and saw Dave in his usual late afternoon position in front of a blank wall, I walked over to him. I stood quiet a moment beside him but within his view to see if he would notice and say something. We were both still for a few more minutes before I quietly asked: “What do you see?” A moment passed before Dave’s soft voice replied, “My wife, Mary.”
I stayed with him until he decided to turn and wheel away.
Later that afternoon I called his daughter and told her the story. I could hear her voice shaking as she said, “My mom used to take the ferry to work and every day my dad would drive to the ferry and wait for her.” She had passed seven years earlier, and it had been maybe twenty since he had last picked her up from the ferry.
Diane was comforted by the story, and I was reminded that diseases of the mind do not erase all the joy.
How did I get here?
I worked in the senior industry for seven years, after spending thirty-four years in corporate America. As a high-school dropout, to get my first job I lied about my age and was hired by a major communication company as a customer service agent in a call center. I was only 17 but fully ready to be an adult and pay my way at home with my mom.
In 1984, I was twenty and my mom passed away, and I quit the job that was paying me $25,000. It was the first of many times I walked away from a job because I needed to care for my mental health.
But twenty years later, my successful corporate career had me traveling 70,000 miles per quarter, attending meetings and sales conferences, visiting all my assigned territory locations, and going to company events all over the Americas.
When my daughter was born in 2005, I took a year off. After, I resumed my hectic travel and work pace, until early one morning in 2009, as I tried to sneak out without waking my four-year-old, she woke up and said pleadingly: “Daddy, please don’t go.“
And in a child’s act of desperation, she untied my tie, thinking without my tie I would not leave.
I was crushed, but I left.
Two weeks later I quit the highest paying job I ever had so I could spend time with my daughter.
After trying different jobs that allowed me time to be home and not travel, I discovered the senior care industry. It fit my needs and skills, and I fit what the industry wanted: Senior management experience, sales experience and, refreshingly, after being interviewed by very young managers in different industries, age, as I was now fifty.
This is an industry that values older workers. When talking with the adult children of seniors, it helps to be able to identify with people who have aging parents, are selling homes, dealing with medical issues, insurance coverage, and other “grown-up” matters that younger people may not possess early in their careers.
It’s an interesting industry demographically: Most of the residents are white women, because women live longer, and white women tend to have funds and resources from their deceased husbands and extended family. Most of the care workers are also women, with a significant portion being women of color. Most of the management is white.
Price drives expectations
The senior industry is a growing industry and, more specifically, the luxury private senior community industry is a growing industry. We have all read the stories about the tens of millions of boomers who are retiring and dying, facilitating the largest transfer of wealth in history. That transfer of wealth is what is driving the senior living industry as private companies vie for their portion of that wealth.
Senior communities offering large luxury apartments, fine dining, transportation to/from doctor’s appointments, guided outings, and even individual town car services are standard now. Many add in multiple highly skilled chefs, all-day dining, in-house cafes’, full sized gyms and yoga studios, swimming pools, gardening areas, pet care, full service salons, daily live entertainment, movie theaters, chapels and libraries, which are all popular. Some family members expect to see these things when they visit communities. Add in grand entrance ways, modern designs and furniture and appliances, physical and occupational therapy, and 24 hour concierge—senior communities aren’t the warehouse-style nursing homes from the past.
Luxury and well-appointed apartments cost between $4k – $7k per month, with higher-end ones in exclusive cities going as high as $12k per month! When you add in the cost of care—some communities bundle the costs while others itemize—families can expect to pay an additional $500 to $6k per month.
Most residents have retirement, long-term care insurance, the proceeds from the sale of a home, a savings account, and some receive assistance from their adult children.
Pricing drives the expectations and the better communities deliver service commensurate with the prices.
But many communities fall short, and the reason primarily is a shortage of staff.
Covid exacerbated the already difficult task of finding people to become dining and housekeeping employees. But nothing is worse post-covid than the daily struggle communities have to hire and retain caregivers. No matter what any community tells you during an open house or an interviewing process, the truth is they are all struggling now with caregiver staffing levels and the effect that has on morale, timely resident care, and overall stress levels of the entire community.
Carol hated her large studio apartment and frequently complained that she wanted to move into a first floor 1-bedroom apartment. She was fairly independent but she was frequently angry at everyone for everything, large and small. I encountered her one balmy Saturday afternoon when I passed her in the hall and she turned to me yelling “You! You are renting all the 1-bedroom apartments and I want the one that is empty!”
I knew the apartment she spoke about and though it was unoccupied, it was not a 1-bedroom. She wouldn’t hear me though, and through a stream of profanity and yelling, insisted I show her the apartment right then so she could prove me wrong.
Quietly answering, “Okay,” I walked with her to the apartment which was in a different hallway. For the entire walk, Carol screamed, cursed, and blamed me for ignoring her requests for years about moving to a larger apartment.
At this point I had only known Carol for a few months.
We reached the apartment, I unlocked the room and, as she pushed past me, I stood still as she walked into the room, her anger still covering her face and body.
Standing in the living room and turning her head to me she yelled “Get in here!” with so much anger and expectation of immediate compliance.
I quietly responded, “Please do not talk to me that way.”
Carol’s face registered so much anger but instead of saying more to me, it was that moment that she recognized that she was in fact standing in another studio like the one she was living in, and not a 1-bedroom apartment like she had insisted the apartment was.
I remained quiet, preferring to allow her to process the moment on her own instead of stating the obvious which surely were not needed in that moment. Carol looked to me again and stated, this time with a much softer yet defeated voice: “Put me on the list for a downstairs 1-bedroom apartment.” She then brushed past me and stormed off to her apartment where she opened then slammed the door so hard, I thought perhaps she had broken the door.
It was a month after Carol had slammed the door when a 1-bedroom apartment became available (this is how we soften the language to make what we do more palatable – someone died.)
In the weeks since Carol had screamed and cursed out me, every time I saw her, I smiled and waved. It was authentic since I made a habit of saying hello to seniors, especially those who I had helped move in. At first Carol did not wave back or return my “Good morning” with her own. On this day I decided to look for Carol and show her the apartment. Hearing that she was in the theatre playing in the Wii bowling tournament, I whispered for her attention.
I let her know the apartment was available and though it needed work, I wanted to give her first chance to claim it before it went back on the market.
Carol was quiet and then I noticed a tear. She whispered “Thank you. My husband won’t pay for it but I appreciate you telling me.”
I told her I would always let her know first when there was an open apartment.
She went back to playing Wii.
Covid raised already high stress levels
Families rightly expect to get the care and services they are paying for, and at times, they are unforgiving regarding the effect covid has had on caregiving staff. Most families understand, but there are those who refuse to accept that this industry isn’t immune from society’s issues, that it is licensed by the state, and that it is a for-profit business.
Even as companies sent their workers home or set them up from home offices, caregivers at senior facilities were expected to continue providing care even while they were exposed to the deadly virus all day every day. Families of residents were working from home and forbidden from visiting family members during the worst of the pandemic, and it was terrible… but workers were expected to be at work.
Despite all the “Heroes work here” signs plastered outside the communities, Americans didn’t actually treat caregivers as heroes. It feels like they treated my co-workers as a prop, a fad—sending a brief moment of thank you with small increases in pay that are supposed to mitigate the risk of sickness and death for hourly workers who made so much of the country function for middle and upper class people.
The appreciation faded quickly, and the extra pay ended as states re-opened by ending mask mandates for most of society except senior living. Annual increases for hourly workers this year range from .15 – .25 per hour, not enough to make up for losing the pandemic pay that ended even though the pandemic hasn’t gone away and certainly the effects of the pandemic haven’t subsided.
The demand to return to work was meaningless to people who never had the chance to work from home in the first place.
The imbalance caused the expected stresses as family members were not required to wear masks in public, but still required to wear a mask inside our communities as we are licensed by the state and the states say masks are required.
All the videos we’ve seen of Americans losing their shit in Walmart and Target, at train stations and airports, in restaurants and at bars… also played out at senior communities with outbursts by family members tired of us requiring them to check in with proof of vaccination, a temperature check, and reminders to wear their masks.
While most families complied without incident, there were far too many ugly instances of middle aged mostly white people yelling at younger mostly women of color who were doing the jobs required of them by their middle aged white bosses.
To be a POC and caught in the middle of a class, control, and health war between white people is not a fun place to be.
Our staff has spent an inordinate amount of time gently reminding visitors to wear a mask, stop to sign in to have their temperature taken, and to show proof of vaccination, only to be met with anger and derision snide remarks and ugly looks, before they determine their desire to see a loved one is more important than taking a useless stand.
As the only member of the executive team not a woman, and as a taller and larger Black male, my role evolved to also provide a type of “security” and reinforcement to obey the rules or leave. Forty-one years of working my way up and now I’ve added security to my resume because Americans cannot be counted on to be decent people.
Move outs and move ins
As a Director of Sales, I have sales goals imposed on me, and for most of my time in this industry I’ve been expected to move in three residents per month. Attrition is generally two residents per month, so getting three assures growth, and increasing the census and revenue is the goal of any for-profit industry.
I have averaged four move-ins per month, and this past year averaged close to five. I don’t include those results to brag but to show that there was an environment of growth even with covid, lockdowns, and societal uncertainty. Those people in my role who knew to empathize and understand what families were experiencing tended to be most successful.
Finding seniors can be a challenge, even without covid. On average I received forty leads each month. They come from national placement agents from companies such as A Place for Mom and Caring.com, local placement agents, skilled nursing facilities, our own website, and neighbors who know who we are and where we are. I maintained four to five-hundred leads in my database and through phone calls, emails, and text messages, I hosted three to five tours/re-tours a week. By month’s end on average five families moved in.
Seniors can be afraid to move and may have apprehensions based on how the older versions of the senior industry used to look. Warehousing seniors in large buildings, everyone in a chair or wheelchair, lined against a wall while a television blasts daytime reruns. Food worse than school food, and inattentive and overwhelmed helpers.
As I’ve already pointed out, today’s senior communities are as far from those images as we are from horse and wagon.
Covid was devastating to the industry and to folk like me. The national deaths hit the industry hard, and whatever number you have read, it’s lower than reality. We have seen residents get covid, “recover” and then pass away a few days or weeks after. Those deaths are not counted as covid-related though they should be. We have seen thriving healthy seniors contract covid, and after recovering they are never the same and pass away quietly. And when they have passed away, they have “moved out.”
Over the past six months, fifty-three percent of the move-outs in my community were due to seniors dying. Most of the remaining move-outs were due to seniors needing a higher level of care than what we could provide. Six move-outs per month for a sustained period shocked the local employees. To upper-management it was only seen as our failure to move in enough people to account for the move outs. (“Move-outs” most often mean “death” but not saying so softens the emotional impact. It turns humans into numbers and euphemisms. Aside from death, reasons for resident attrition include the need for a higher level of care, moving home with family, and moving to a competitor community.)
But private companies have growth and revenue targets to hit and, covid be damned, they will drive performance and hold employees accountable to those stretch goals all private for-profit companies push.
My local executive and I were called to meet with executives to strategize about how to increase sales to counter the high number of move-outs. My role was to bring residents in; the executive director, chef, concierge, nurse, facilities, activities, fitness, and staffing leaders are expected to provide the level of care and service the company promises so residents don’t leave. The directive we were given when faced with all of these “move-outs”? Sell more, bring in more residents, do more home visits, call more, text more, tour more, get more revenue.
At the meeting, an executive, having recognized the above facts seemingly for the first time, casually and in that unique American businessperson response, said: “Well, you just have to move in seven people per month then.”
Responding instinctively and from the heart I said quietly: “I can’t outsell death.”
It was, basically, business as usual. With my experience I was not surprised, though I wanted acknowledgment of the difficulty of the environment and most of all, the emotional and mental stress of having witnessed so many deaths.
Exposing glaring gaps
For an industry that promotes its humanity, the internal response to overwhelming death has been sorely lacking.
To be staff or administrators at the ground level, work with families for months to get them to move in, get to know the senior for months and years only to see that senior pass away, and then receive no recognition of the emotional toll we face, exposes a glaring gap in the industry. Staff are expected to go about their day and do the job, suppress their grief at losing a senior who shared personal stories, who cried at being left alone away from extended family, who expressed humor, anger, sadness, and grief to housekeepers, wait staff, and other employees.
The day they die we are told to move on, get the apartment emptied and prepared for showing. Clean it, paint it, refresh it, and get a new resident in it.
Feeling sad and depressed at losing that lovely great-grandmother you’ve been caring for the past few years? Grieve on your own time, don’t be late from your break, and get back to your job.
Our community has a chapel that is used by local clergy for services, prayer, and visits with residents and their family. The chapel is open to all religious leaders. Our community receives daily visits from hospice company reps who find clients in our communities/industry. The visits are usually short with coffee, fruits, and gifts part of the tactic the reps use to gain favor with the community leaders so we will think of their hospice company when one of our seniors become candidates.
Despite consistent visits from five or more hospice companies and multiple local clergy, there are no grief provisions provided to employees to help them process the grief many experience when they see the seniors they care for die.
Care has become more difficult through covid; seniors rebelled against social distancing, lockdowns, and limited visits from families, and finding and keeping workers also became more difficult. These and other factors made meeting company growth goals more difficult as families kept seniors away from assisted living and memory care facilities believing they were safer at home.
And the families of younger employees began asking them to stop working for senior communities for fear they would contract covid and bring it home to their own loved ones.
In trying to recover growth and revenues from two years of covid, many communities raised rates, following the script of other industries.
Higher rates pull along higher service expectations by families, so any issue, not matter how small, is reacted to with the type of complaining intensity usually reserved for only the most egregious issues. Families overly stressed by society’s covid response—whatever their beliefs- take it out on hourly workers who have no control over the rules, regulations, or local requirements.
It took nine months for Alice to finally move in. She lived independently in a home in a gated community for seniors. She was a widow, having lost her husband, a former highway patrol officer, of forty years to suicide after he found out he had inoperable cancer. She found him in their bathroom.
Both her adult children had passed as well. She and her husband had a business that she worked on selling before she sold her home and moved with us. She and I talked every couple of weeks before it was finally time for her to move. She was a self-described “mean old broad” and she really was. Originally from New York, she had zero patience and could still curse like a sailor, she would say.
When it was time to move, she asked me to work with her moving company, and when they were late to her home, she asked that I come help. Something the almost all white executive team does not understand, is what a request like this means from the viewpoint of a Black person. I made it a point to not go to senior’s homes even though it was a requirement of my job to do so. I never felt safe to be in a senior’s home alone due to the opportunity to be accused, to scare, to have police called by nosey neighbors, and other reasons.
But with Alice I felt safe because she and I had spoken for months but mostly because I knew the moving company would be there at the same time.
I arrived and she immediately put me to work as a type of project manager overseeing the moving company. We got it done and she moved in to a large 2-bedroom apartment.
After couple of weeks, I visited Alice to see how she was doing. I had gotten wind that she was “mean” to the staff. I knew she could be tough, so I wanted to see for myself how things were going.
Entering her apartment, I could see plates of uneaten food litter her kitchen and seating areas.
“I see you are enjoying the food.” I said hoping a little humor would soften what I knew would be a profanity filled response.
Alice’s profanity lit of my ears and her apartment. After a while I asked, sarcastically: “Have you used up your monthly quota of curse words, old lady?”
Alice laughed and I sat with her for an hour listening to her complain about everything and anything, but mostly the food and how it was always cold when delivered to her apartment which was, per her request, the furthest from the restaurant.
“Why don’t you go to the restaurant, I am certain it will be hot when delivered to your table?”
“Because I don’t want to sit with old people who sit in wheelchairs and who have oxygen tanks!”
Mind you, Alice was in a wheelchair and used an oxygen tank.
“Okay, look, am going to take you to lunch next Saturday, okay? I’ll come pick you up at noon so be ready.”
“Well, okay, then, it’s a date. Don’t be late.” She laughed as I left her apartment.
I knew Alice was lonely and hadn’t taken the time to leave her apartment since moving in.
I showed up the following Saturday and Alice was ready to go. Her hair was done, she was dressed and I even saw that she had make-up on.
“Come on, mean old broad, let’s go eat.” I said as I pushed her and her oxygen tank out of the apartment and into the first of three long hallways leading to the restaurant.
I had prepared the restaurant staff for our visit so they greeted us upon arrival and sat us at the center table where I knew she would be able to see everything.
Alice was the picture of manners, as seniors greeted her as they went to their seats, the wait staff fawned over her telling her they had been waiting to meet her.
Watching and listening to Alice get to meet other seniors, pleasantly talk about. the food, the scenery, weather, and other small-talk, was wonderful. As we ate she talked of the meal that she was enjoying, the desserts – she had two, and how lovely everyone was to her.
After lunch I took her back to her apartment and thanked her for letting me dine with her. She expressed her gratitude and asked if we could go “Once a month.”
“Of course, I’ve love to, I replied truthfully.”
When I returned to work the following Tuesday, I was told Alice had passed. She had started feeling bad Sunday, went to the hospital Monday morning, and by Monday evening, had passed. We didn’t know it at the time, but she had passed of Covid.
A few days later her lone relative—her husband’s nephew from Mississippi—came to collect her things. I introduced myself and he replied “Myron. I am happy to meet you. My aunt talked about you and said “Myron is so nice.”
We had a good laugh about his aunt, the “tough old broad” and before I left, he handed me a wooden chest that was the size of a large breadbox. He said his aunt had left a note to give it to me. He wasn’t certain where she had got the wooden chest or how long she had it, but he wanted to honor her wishes.
I waited until I was alone to read the note. It was written in cursive of the type older people were taught in school, flowing curving dramatic lines that added meaning to whatever words they were conveying:
To Myron — From a tough old broad
That was all it said. I like to think she was laughing a devious laugh when she wrote it.
I keep the wooden chest next to my bookcase.
Yes, it’s personal
I lost my oldest brother last year in June. He died after being run over by a very large truck at a gas station. He was crushed and the driver drove away but was captured and charged with three felonies. I took the company benefit of three work days off to attend his funeral, be with family, and grieve. Then I was back at work.
My oldest sibling had passed and I was concerned about the census in my community and achieving growth and revenue targets. My brother’s death was a reason our younger sister fell out of sobriety and dove headfirst back into all her addictions. My other brother and I navigated lawsuits, our sister’s addiction issues, and our own families as we tried to manage our brother’s affairs.
I needed time to grieve, to process, to understand.
But I worked in an industry where death creates opportunities for more outreach, more marketing, more leads, more phone calls, more tours, and more move-ins. The abundance of death brought the abundance of growth expectations, brought more energetic zoom meetings, more weekly reports and all the standard corporate actions and activities that are excruciatingly necessary toward keeping American business running; to fully re-opening society; getting kids back to school, and getting growth and revenue accelerating again.
These are seen as noble and mostly noncontroversial endeavors accepted in the world’s leading capitalist society whose economy drives a significant percentage of the world’s economy, both directly and indirectly. The executives in charge of the place I work are wonderful leaders full of compassion, empathy, genuine concern for leadership staff, who try to make a difference in the lives of our residents and families. And as in many companies, there is a disconnect between the people on the ground working and those in the lofty offices where company decisions are made in consultation with financial backers beholden to Wall Street.
Janet’s family was exhausted from caring for her, they said. After her husband passed she had moved in with her eldest daughter, Vivian, who, after a few weeks, realized she could not fully care for her mom. Janet was too much and needed more care than they could provide. Then, Janet had fallen and was now in skilled nursing due to be discharged in a few days. With covid running rampant, skilled nursing could not keep non-covid related patients for extended visits. Working with Vivian and skilled nursing, we worked furiously to expedite moving Janet to our community by the time she was due to be discharged.
The next three days were a blur with each day being sixteen hours, numerous calls, visits by our nurse to skilled nursing, buying some furniture because they could not get a mover on short notice, moving other furniture we used in one of our models, and worked through all the paperwork.
The work was exhausting but necessary and Vivian worked hand-in-hand with me and my team. Vivian was emblematic of the many women like her who do almost all the work to move seniors into senior living communities. In my experience the person most likely to assist and help seniors move to a senior community are their daughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, sisters, nieces, ex-wives, before they are their sons, grandsons, nephews. I tell friends and family to be kind to the women in their lives, because it will be one of them who will see to you as a senior and to the end of your life.
I looked and saw that over the course of just a few days, Vivian and I had called one another forty-two times, texted eighteen, and traded thirty emails from the first time I called her to the text she sent saying she was on her way with her mom—she was following the ambulance.
Janet arrived on stretcher and was taken to her apartment, Janet and few family members with her. I was in my office working with another family when they arrived. I could see them in the lobby.
I looked forward to getting to know Janet.
After an hour when I had finished with the family I was working with, I exited my office and saw Vivian and her family. She walked to me and hugged me, saying “Thank you” as she squeezed my back.
“I am glad Janet made it.” I was relieved to have worked it out with the family.
I saw tears roll down Vivian’s face as she quietly said, “Mom just passed.”
I didn’t get a chance to meet Janet.
And my company did not pay me commission on the move-in because she was…. “Only in the community for an hour.”
Families often come to us later than is optimal, with there being a recent triggering event that caused concerned, alarm, fear, or all of the above. Many of the signs of declines families tell us they are noticing have been present for longer than most families will admit without prompting. It is perfectly normal and expected to want our loved ones to still be the person we knew them to be. It can be hard to accept their new reality.
Earnest had lived in his home for seventy years, the same home his parents had lived in all their adult lives. He missed his home but after his wife had passed, he was no longer able to be alone.
After he moved in to our senior community, Earnest’s neighbors complained he was having “loud parties at all hours of the night.” But Earnest, 97, assured us he was not having parties in his apartment. “I am a retired preacher” he proudly proclaimed whenever asked about the loud parties.
The complaints continued though so we decided to check on him in the middle of the night to see what was happening. From outside his apartment, we could hear the “party” Earnest’s neighbors had complained about. The sounds were not a “party” but Earnest’s chosen form of entertainment: Adult movies.
We politely asked him to lower the volume and to use his hearing aids. He asked that we not tell his son because he didn’t want to let him down.
Time to say good bye
I recently resigned from my position as Director of Marketing for a senior living industry company.
The combination of so much death inside my community, my brother’s death, and my lack of time to grieve and process for my own mental health led me to making the decision to leave an industry that seems perfectly suited to my skills and abilities.
But sometimes in our careers where we could be is not where we should be. And for me this is one of those times.
The way the industry attends to the seniors in their charge is admirable, consistent in effort, if not in execution. The same cannot be said for the care the industry gives to their employees who manage the day to day operations, activities, care, restaurant, and housekeeping.
Like everyone else, seniors will be cranky, disagreeable, sick, mean, bullies, racists, misogynists, and irrational. If the senior exhibits those personality features prior to moving to a senior community, then they will continue them. The communities are not communities of Shang-gri-la that will erase the history of who the person was and is, even those affected by dementia.
If a senior doesn’t get along with their families, doesn’t like non-white people, and is disrespectful in their prior life, they will be the same in the senior community. And though they will pay thousands of dollars per month, the people who will be closest to them will be paid wages that are barely above minimum wage in most cases. The entry level hourly person will help with bathing, escorting, dressing, toileting—including cleaning incontinence accidents that occur in bed, on floors, and in clothing.
The industry will continue to grow as Americans age and the wealthiest and their families seek comfort, care, and safe environments for their final years.
I will miss the earnest leaders who want to make a difference in the lives of residents, and the, the caregivers and housekeeping staff who work harder than everyone to make certain seniors live quality lives.
I won’t miss the young managers who only see the numbers we produce, only talk of the families who have issues with our staff, and who only see half-empty glasses and last week’s reports. Those managers who get excited for the next Zoom meeting, but not the next family discussion where families share their entire family history as they look for communal acceptance and warm embraces from the staff the get to meet and talk to every day.
I will miss the attentive restaurant chef and staff who work hard to please seniors, their guests, and even the families who feel entitled to way too much.
But mostly I will miss the quiet old guys who have tips on how to grow better tomatoes, how to grill, golf, or play an instrument, the mothers, grandmothers, and aunties who slip me candy, and those who boss me around as I am walking by. I’ll miss the seniors and all their stories, quirks and complaints, their desires for community or solitude.
© 2022 by Myron J. Clifton.
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Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.
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The latest mass shooting in Allen, Tx., by Mexican-American — a citizen for anyone hoping to blame immigrants — Mauricio Garcia, 33 years old. Mauricio was kicked out of the military after a few months once they figured out he had serious mental issues. But never fear, because in Texas anyone can purchase any number…
Where are the Good Christians?
Christians are working overtime to turn America into a christo-ethnic state that prioritizes white nationalism, fascism, anti-Blackness, anti-Latino, Anti-abortion, Anti-immigrant, Anti-democracy, Anti-LGBTQI+, Anti-Books, Anti-public schools, Anti-police accountability, Anti-international allies, Anti-healthcare, Anti-vaccination, Anti-debt relief, Anti-environment, Anti-worker’s rights, Anti-freedom of the press, Anti-voting rights, and….. You get the point, I think. Some Christians will reflexively respond with:…
You are a beautiful writer!! Every sentence got me more invested and your compassion and genuine connections with your residents really came through.
What a shame they didn’t give you the support and care you needed, especially for all the seniors who will miss out. Wish you peace and healing ❤
This is a beautiful, heart wrenching post. Your writings are comforting and healing. Seventeen years ago, I was employed as assistant manager at a retirement center here in Southern Oregon; it was corrupt with many mixed-messages. I lasted six months. The preying upon seniors who had no family was appalling (purchasing and selling their antiques, cars) I reported my findings to corporate, and that was met with resistance, so I quit.
Reading your post took me back to a wide variety of emotions.
Now that you have finished that chapter in your life, what are your future work plans?
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