John O'Connor
John O’Connor

It was a bit stunning to hear it finally said in public by an industry official.

Speaking Monday at Argentum’s annual convention, Board Chairman Pat Mulloy noted that it maybe it’s time for the field to take a “serious look” at self-regulation.

That may not be the kind of suggestion many in the audience actually wanted to hear. In some corners, those might even be nothing short of fighting words. Yet it is exactly the kind of straight talk this sector needs to hear. Before it’s too late.

That is, assuming senior living operators want to avoid the same kind of heavy-handed oversight and reputational challenges that have afflicted skilled care.

For with all due respect, there are changes afoot across senior living that could invite, well, negative outcomes.

For one, the field is becoming a more aggressive post-acute player. As such, it is taking on residents with far more complex needs than was the case even a decade ago. Yes, senior living may be a real estate play. But increasingly, it is becoming a healthcare business as well.

For another, new buildings are popping up like dandelions in spring to meet the needs and lifestyle preferences among our oldest citizens.

For yet another, more new operators are hardly moored to the foundational principles that made assisted living truly unique.

Keep playing with those kinds of matches and somebody is going to get burned.

A bit of self-regulation might help stem and even reverse the tide here. Mulloy also noted that the field should highlight its exemplars. You know, the people who do senior living the way it should be done. Amen.

Argentum also is beefing up its lobbying game, which should help get the industry’s message to the right lawmakers at the state and federal levels. To be sure, that increased emphasis is completely warranted. But the more fundamental need is a bit more tough love within the family.

Hats off to Mr. Mulloy for showing real leadership and courage. We need a lot more like him.

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