Mark Parkinson speaking
“You, your team and your company are going to survive this pandemic,” AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson predicted to attendees in his remarks Monday during the opening general session of the organization’s annual meeting.

NASHVILLE, TN — Long-term care is going to survive.

That’s the prediction President and CEO Mark Parkinson gave Monday during the opening general session of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living Conference & Expo.

After sharing some self-deprecating stories about the effects of aging — he turned 65 in June — Parkinson said that age brings with it the ability to see things more clearly due to the sheer number of life experiences one has had.

“One thing that I’m sure about and that I see very clearly is my prediction for you: You, your team and your company are going to survive this pandemic,” he said. “You are going to make it.”

‘Our services are critically needed’

Government assistance, occupancy recovery and a commitment to culture are among what the CEO cited as evidence that assisted living and skilled nursing providers have what it takes to emerge from the pandemic.

He said he knows that the industry will recover due to an unspoken agreement with the government that the sector’s services are important and will continue.

“The government provided us tens of billions of dollars both at the federal and state level,” Parkinson said, adding that those funds will continue to ensure that the sector does not shut its doors. “Our services both in assisted living and skilled nursing are critically needed. More people will need those services as the boomers age, and we already have buildings that are in recovery.”

‘Recovery is possible’

Evidence of recovery exists, he said, noting that one-third of providers no longer are using staffing agencies.

“Recovery is possible,” Parkinson said, noting that in assisted living as well as in skilled nursing, average occupancy is 5% below the pre-pandemic level, and 30% of the sector is at or above its prepandemic census.

“We will continue, very slowly and very painstakingly, this recovery,” Parkinson said. “We will continue to receive funds from the federal and state government, and you will make it.”

Recovery won’t be easy, and it won’t be free, the CEO said. Achieving it, he added, will require three things of providers: not quitting, making a commitment to being top performers, and fighting for the industry by being active in state associations and in other ways.

The industry, Parkinson added, is “at the 20-mile mark in a 26-mile marathon.” The “secret sauce” of top-performing companies, he said, is commitment to becoming a top performer, commitment to culture and employees, and commitment to mission.

“We’ve seen in our sector, it’s all about leadership,” Parkinson said, adding that successful companies and buildings have leaders who don’t see developing a mission statement as a “check-the-box exercise.” “They are completely committed to mission — moving that mission all throughout the organization, living it, making decisions based upon that mission. They  are completely committed to employee engagement and satisfaction.”

‘We now control our future’

It’s more important than ever for the industry to fight and be active — together, Parkinson said. Emails, phone calls and letters from providers recently have led to rare reversals of policies, to the benefit of providers, he noted.

“We now control our future,” Parkinson said. “We’re at a point in recovery that I’m completely convinced that if you don’t quit, if you commit to either staying or becoming a top performer, and if we stay united and fight, we’re going to get through this thing.”

In remarks preceding Parkinson’s, NCAL Executive Director LaShuan Bethea reiterated the organizational priorities she shared Sunday during NCAL Day and challenged opening general session attendees to “choose to find joy in every day, especially when you aren’t having the best day” in the year ahead.

“Find the little things that make you, your residents and your staff feel good, happy and appreciated. Create moments that bring joy,” she continued. “You’ll see that it really does make a big difference.”

NCAL Board Chair Gerald Hamilton encouraged attendees to “see residents for who they are, what they are and what they need. Only then can you provide the best care.”

The AHCA/NCAL annual meeting continues through Wednesday.

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