CLEVELAND—The New York Times has given the LTC industry a gift—in the form of an article in the Sept. 30th edition concerning a report on nursing homes issued by the Inspector General to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“Violations reported at 94% of nursing homes,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/us/30nursing.html?scp=2&sq=nursing%20homes&st=cse).
We excerpted the article in our Oct. 1, e-news, and our electronic mailbox has been brimming with responses since then. Readers are not happy that, yet again, the entire nursing home industry has been painted with the brush of incompetence, uncaring people, and a system that preys on the sick and frail in our society. So, you ask, where is the “gift?”
Do you realize the power that’s just been put in your fingertips to educate the public about the misconceptions of your profession? Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! The long-term living profession has just been given the opportunity to speak to 1,077,256 of The Times’ print readers and more than 143,488,000 readers in its online universe to set the record straight by writing to The Times at firstname.lastname@example.org concerning the misperceptions the article generates. Now, to be totally fair, the newspaper reported on information given to them by the Inspector General. This was a straight news story. The writer chose not to contact anyone in the LTC profession for comment. But, therein lies the rub. Without knowing the other side of the story, the average Joe is left with the incorrect impression that, “Yep, I knew it. Those nursing homes are hellish places to be avoided at all costs.”
Seize this opportunity and any opportunity to educate the public on how reports such as the Inspector General’s are generated, the nuances, how numbers can be misinterpreted or misrepresented. Lay out the facts concisely and succinctly. And make sure your local media know your story. A constant, quick, and overwhelming response to information like what was presented in The Times’ story is the only way to stanch the ignorance surrounding what most of you, as conscientious participants in the long-term care industry, work for every day—giving care and dignity to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Use the gift wisely.