A Message From Focused Care's Founder

Mark McKenzie, CEO

Founder’s Message December 2023: Gains and Losses in a Volatile World

Founder’s Message December 2023

Gains and Losses in a Volatile World

Just when you think reason and common sense have taken a vacation…..someone with conviction steps up and makes a powerful statement. The last few months we have been facing the ill-advised proposal of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue a staffing mandate – yes – ONLY in skilled nursing facilities – and during a historic national healthcare workforce shortage. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) has pledged to introduce a highly anticipated bill that would block CMS from implementing its proposed nursing home staffing mandate – which would penalize long term care communities for not producing adequate staffing numbers from thin air – or so these days – it feels.  Turning a blind eye to the realities that nearly all health care sectors face regarding a shortage of willing, able, qualified nursing and care staff, the federal agency decided to target long term care and ask the impossible.

Senator Fischer, who hails from Nebraska – a largely rural state with communities that mirror many of Texas’ rural areas, calls CMS’ proposed rule “misguided standards.” And while Focused Care certainly understands the rationale within staffing ratios vs. residents, the heavy hand of CMS when we simply do not have the human beings to address the mandate – rings hollow in our definition of what is practical.

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, Texas and Nebraska led the nation last year for most nursing home closures. High inflation and rising fuel costs – think of those of you who commute to work and our communities keeping our staff and residents cool in the scorching summers and warm in unforgiving winters – are making an enormous dent in how far a paycheck goes to support your family and put food on the table. Given our sector is highly dependent upon the twin pillars of public funding – Medicare and Medicaid – increasing salaries, hourly rates and providing flexibility in shifts – all of which Focused Care strives to do – remains challenging to ensure everyone gets what they need and deserve.

So we will see where Senator Fischer’s to-be-introduced-legislation takes us and if we can gain relief from the strains and pressures still bearing down on the long term care setting.

What I want most for all of us in the meantime – in this climate of gains and losses – is to remember we have each other. That may sound corny to you or like a throw away line at the end of a Christmas card. But I mean that with all sincerity.  Everyday I turn on the news and see strife in our world, intolerance of religion, skin color and cultural morays. We, in long term care, know that we can’t fear the different – the unfamiliar. We will all grow old – if we are lucky. And if we do – we may be dependent on others to help us navigate the challenges aging offers us. We all want the same in our most vulnerable hours – compassion, understanding and even humor – which lightens the weight of the soul when all else seems to be waning.

Let’s hold on to each other through the coming days and into the season whose aromas, lights and traditions give us grounding, give us family, give us memories of the past and hope for the future.

I am hoping 2024 is a year with fewer losses and far more gains. I want for you and for us – as the Focused Care community – to feel the benefits of our hard work and our mission and to see it in the faces of our residents and their family members.

Thank you for your unyielding efforts in a difficult year, for staying the course and for making me believe that my mission – when I created this company – was real and attainable.

May this holiday season bring you with happiness, joy and a spirit of giving.