Collaboration with organizations once thought of as competitors can help turn a time of healthcare policy uncertainty into a time of opportunity for senior living, Argentum Board of Directors Chairman Loren Shook said Tuesday in the opening session of organization’s Senior Living Executive Conference in Nashville, TN.

“Changes at the federal level, and at the state level, too, are likely,” said the founder, president, chairman and CEO of Silverado. But operators have the chance to think about payment structures, integrated healthcare delivery and potential partnerships, Shook added.

“In this time, which to many can seem like it is fraught with tumultuous uncertainty, remember, the common denominator of a solution is delivering quality-of-care, quality-of-life results within a value structure that creates affordability at so many levels where excessive dollars are being spent today,” he said.

“Low-hanging fruit” for partnerships in senior living, Shook said, would see operators working with telehealth providers, nurse practitioners and others to reduce emergency department visits and rehospitalizations involving residents. Such collaborations could lead to regulatory changes that enable existing caregivers to assess falls and other conditions “with the backup through telehealth resources of physicians or nurse practitioners to be in your community at an economic level of possibility without incurring undue legal or regulatory risk to the individual or the company,” he added.

Such changes, Shook said, could lead to system-wide healthcare cost reductions.

“It is time for changes like these, which are best to emanate from the state level from the collaboration with other organizations like hospitals, first responders, EMS, the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP, LeadingAge and [the National Center for Assisted Living],” he said. “Some of these we thought were competitors of ours. They’re not. Let’s circle around — these groups have common vision and common thought — and partner together. These things can be done, which benefit all of us and, more importantly, enhance the quality of lives for those who we serve.”

Argentum President and CEO James Balda spoke before Shook and said that the organization is monitoring more than 500 pieces of state legislation and that Silver PAC had its best year of fundraising to date. The organization raised $375,000, according to Argentum.

This year’s meeting attracted just under 3,000 attendees, association leaders said.

Also at Tuesday’s opening session:

  • Argentum gave out some of its Best of the Best Awards. The award in operational excellence went to Brookdale Senior Living for its Entrepreneur in Residence program; the memory care award was bestowed on Legend Senior Living for its biofeedback therapy with the Paro seal; and the workforce development-related award went to Senior Living Communities for its Explore program. Additional information about the award winners may be found in the latest issue of Argentum’s Senior Living Executive magazine. More awards will be bestowed on Wednesday.
  • Sylvia Mackey, widow of NFL Hall of Famer John Mackey, received Argentum’s Changemaker Award. Later at an educational session, she spoke about her late husband’s experience with frontotemporal dementia.
  • Travel difficulties prevented scheduled featured speaker George Blankenship from being there Tuesday, but the meeting schedule has been revised, and Blankenship now will speak at Wednesday’s general session, the starting time of which has been changed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.

Monday, the organization announced that Tom Grape, chairman and CEO of Benchmark Senior Living, was elected to serve on the Argentum Board of Directors. Leaving the board are Jon DeLuca, president and CEO of Senior Lifestyle Corp.; Dan Hirschfeld, executive vice president and CEO of Genesis HealthCare Corp.; and Justin Hutchens, president at HCP Inc. Six officers were re-elected, and six members were re-elected to another term.

The meeting, with almost 40 educational sessions and more than 300 vendors in the exhibit hall, continues through Wednesday.