Regulatory Heaven

We now live, of course, in a golden age of political harmony. We have congressional bipartisanship, compassionate conservatism and (its counterpart, I suppose) hardboiled liberalism, along with a willingness to listen to one another-to forgive, forget, move on. It's unlikely we will have a serious political argument in this country for years to come.And, by the way, did you know we have a bridge for sale here in Cleveland? (I can get it for you wholesale!) Seriously, probably no one in America understands better than the people in the long-term care field that political contentiousness is still very much in fashion. Except for a brief warm-up during the mid-'90s, government policy toward long-term care has tended to be more combative than creative. That's why it's so striking to see signs of genuine political collaboration in this field, without a trace of soft soap.

A case in point is the lead article in this issue, in which you'll find representatives of the Kentucky assisted living industry, the legislature, a consumer organization and a state regulatory agency describing how they worked together to create a new law. For one accustomed to rancorous debate over these issues, a collaborative enterprise like this is, well, astonishing-perhaps even inspiring. Maybe stories like this happen because assisted living is involved. Even though the field has plenty of problems of its own, there seems to be quiet but widespread agreement that society should not repeat the mistakes that have been made in regulating nursing homes. No matter how well Kentucky's new assisted living law works out, the story behind it raises hope for the future of long-term care policy- making in this country.

There are more examples similar to this. For instance, readers of Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management and its annual DESIGN issue know of our long-standing relationship with a group called the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE). Here the emphasis is on designers, facility owner/operators and government regulators working together to improve the design and functioning of long-term care facilities. This, too, has spawned success stories that inspire and raise hope. In both instances, we see people attempting not to impose their specialized world views on each other, but instead to talk things over, learn from each other, achieve compromise where possible and, in general, get good things done. In short, this can happen, even in long-term care. Will Washington take note? NH

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