Changing the Conversation

amy_jonesIt’s something no senior living community ever wants to see in print–a headline telling seniors NOT to live in the state where the community is located. That’s just what happened in an article I recently read on the Newsweek website (originally written by Kaiser Health News) called, “You Don’t Want to Be Old in These States.”

The story focuses on the fact that Texas has the highest percentage of one and two-star nursing homes (on the Medicare rating scale); with Oklahoma, Georgia and West Virginia following with slightly better statistics. The article speaks of some pretty bad examples of poor care, and it paints a scary picture of nursing homes, especially in rural areas.

The writer has a point to make about nursing home care and limited options in rural areas, however, the headline and the tone of the article speak to gross generalizations that place all communities into the same category in the eyes of an uniformed reader. The story never talks about the high-rated communities; it only focuses on the negatives.

In our world, we see amazing examples of communities going above and beyond to cater to their residents each day. We work with many innovative change-agents in this industry who are doing everything in their power to create communities that provide top-notch care in engaging, active and desirable environments. It’s not fair that all of these communities get lumped into the same category of subpar care in the readers’ mind because they simply exist in the same geographical state as some of the bad apples.

Handling public relations for senior living communities, we fight these stereotypes every day, and we are constantly trying to inform the public and the media about the right terminology to use, as well as reminding them of the way the industry has changed to provide hospitality and an environment that’s far different than the image held in a lot of people’s minds.

Articles like this make me realize that we have to work even harder. It is clear that the stereotypes still exist, and many have a skewed sense of what kind of care is really out there. Our job is far from over, and it’s our duty to hammer the message home, change the discussion and use our PR expertise to showcase the exemplary providers we work with each and every day.

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