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The mystery of the disappearing resident room (and the lost census)

September 7, 2011
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In complex mysteries you may have more than one party that is responsible for missing rooms in a senior living community. The worst crime scene I ever witnessed had eight missing resident rooms that were later found to be offices, storage rooms and a large break room.


Solving the mystery of the disappearing resident room requires a keen, Columbo-like sense of asking questions and going back again and again until they get answered. In analyzing Columbo’s unique approach to detective work in more depth we find his technique was less about asking the questions and more about his ability to observe the situation and the reactions to his questions.


As in any good murder mystery there are the usual suspects. The detective needs to focus in on who would benefit from the demise of the victim/victims (which we will just call Room John Doe and Room Jane Doe to protect the resident rooms’ real names).


When a home is having census issues and the rooms are full, a good investigator needs to be able to open every door, open every drawer and look at all the skeletons in the closet. It is not uncommon for the executive director to not have a key to every door, let alone every closet. Sometimes the staff is unsure who even has a key to certain spaces. In these situations the patience of Columbo is needed.


So who typically benefits in a murder mystery? The usual suspects are those seeking Power, Money or Love.


The Power seekers are those who feel that an office is needed to do their job. The perfect size and location is empty Room John or Jane Doe and once taken over, everyone forgets about the room’s original identity from here on out. Power seekers will typically cite their need for confidentiality, locked storage or privacy to meet with others in that space.


The Money seekers are those who feel that due to their pay not being in line with their performance, they deserve compensation in the form of “land.” They decorate the room with all their personal items and may even paint and carpet it themselves. It becomes space that they “own” like a captured territory that they will wage war not to lose.


The Love seekers are caught up in a triangle between residents, census and employees. They believe in their heart that if they provide the best staff spaces that this will translate to the best care and thus the census will be great. What they fail to realize is that a love triangle never works out well for anyone. In the end everyone gets hurt. We see this played out in large break rooms, charting rooms, non-code required specific restrooms for “staff only,” huge maintenance shops and storage spaces.



Lisa Cini

President and CEO

Cini is president and CEO of Mosaic...