Coal in our stockings?

As we conclude this very long year (wasn’t New Year’s about five years ago?), we naturally wonder what Santa will leave in our stockings to acknowledge how well we’ve done. Alas, many people these days report seeing a hard, black, shiny substance lurking there. Could it be that things aren’t going so well?

One would have to be deaf, blind, and dumb to enter ’09 without some apprehension about the future in general and our professional futures in particular. I’ll say this about the folks in long-term care, though: They’re used to dealing with adversity. Tight budgets and a tough environment are nothing new to them. In a nutshell, our long-term care system has been set up as an administrative pressure cooker. Those who can’t take it have long since left the game.

There’s no question that the dollars we used to pinch now have to be squeezed. Waste or inefficiency of any kind is strictly verboten. Administrators and their staffs have to review their operations with a fine-toothed comb. And they all have to work together to lessen the burden on each other.

Needless to say, we’ll be pursuing these themes in considerable detail in coming months. Far from doom and gloom, we’ll present this as a positive challenge. More than that we’ll be exploring some the opportunities that always cling to the flip side of bad news, if you look for them. After all, you know what they say about “silver linings,” and even coal is shiny!

For example, we’ll look at the growing popularity—and feasibility—of supporting and collaborating with home care options. Paradoxically, there are ways for long-term care providers to grow with this trend, to provide outreach and market identity like they never have before. And there’s a welcoming market out there. Recently a study issued by the UnitedHealth Group’s Evercare organization and the National Alliance of Caregivers showing that even though Hispanic caregivers work hard at their roles (harder than most, in fact), they tend to view eldercare as family honor, with well over half reporting feeling no stress at all. It is, of course, the famous tradition of “la familia,” and the notion here is that it just might spread to others in our society as home care becomes a more viable option. Is this bad news for LTC providers? Not necessarily. You’ll see why in coming months.

Also, while we are learning that no field is “recession-proof,” not even healthcare, there’s no denying that the demand for eldercare will never go away—it will in fact only grow. People keep getting older and their needs, unavoidably, continue to intensify. There is no shortage of a demand for services, only the challenge in organizing and performing well enough financially to provide them appropriately. Those who approach this challenge positively will find a way not only to survive, but perhaps even prosper, as the economy finds its footing.

So Merry Christmas, lumps and all. And we’ll work hard for a happy New Year.

Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-Chief

To send your comments to the editors, e-mail

Long-Term Living 2008 December;57(12):6

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