April 26, 2020
As I was reading the news early this morning, several public health organizations were consistently referring to the COVID-19 outbreak and its horrific impacts as a “pandemic of biblical proportions.”
As I read these articles and thought about all the issues skilled nursing and assisted living providers are facing as we battle through the COVID-19 pandemic, three things came to mind - the book of Job, my wife Maureen and Viktor Frankl.
Job was a middle-aged person with a comfortable life. Job enjoyed a loving marriage and had seven sons and three daughters who were very close with each other and with Job.
For Job, life was good – until it was not. Early one evening in the beginning of the week one of Job’s employees showed up at his home and declared, “Sir, terrorists have attacked and stolen all of the oxen plowing your fields and all of the donkeys that were grazing. They killed every worker. I am the only survivor.”
While this sole survivor was still speaking, another worker ran up to Job exclaiming, “There was a huge lightning storm that killed all of your sheep and shepherds, I am the only one who escaped alive.”
Before the shepherd finished his story, one of Job’s camel workers ran up to Job shouting, “Sir, sir, bandits killed all the camel herders and stole your camels. I am the only survivor.”
Numb with shock and dismay, Job’s legs went weak as his stomach sank. In the span of fifteen minutes Job’s entire world was collapsing. However, soon, things become even worse when a friend of his children approached a distraught Job crying, “A tornado destroyed your oldest son’s home while he was having a party with all your other children. I am the only survivor.”
Tragedy after adversity after relentless tragedy – does this sound familiar?
Right from the start of this pandemic, skilled nursing and assisted living providers have been scrambling to secure enough PPE. Then we struggle to secure enough staff. Then the government declines to designate our staff and residents as top priorities for testing. Our residents become infected. Then our staff become infected. Our residents pass away in alarming numbers. Family and loved ones become infected and pass away. News outlets and residents’ families descend upon our facilities looking for someone or something to blame.
Then the State tells us that as private companies we are on our own to secure much needed PPE. Next the State, again, calls for an investigation into our facilities to ensure that we are adhering to the myriad laws, rules and orders governing care in this crisis. Following that, yet again, the State issued an order that says any violation of such laws, rules or orders can result in the imposition of a receiver within 24 hours.
In the midst of this pandemic and all the havoc it is causing in our facilities - we can all relate
Eleven years ago, my wife and four children were in a terrible car accident that took the life of my wife’s grandmother. My wife suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident and was in a coma for some time. When Maureen emerged from her coma, she was non-responsive and physically and emotionally flat. I requested a consultation with the hospital’s attending neurologist so I could better understand her condition and her prognosis for healing. Quite simply, I needed to get an understanding of what the future was going to be for our family.
At the end of my conversation with the neurologist, he turned to Maureen lying motionless in a hospital bed and exclaimed “what you see is what you’ve got.” I will never forget those seven words - not for their complete lack of empathy - but for how completely wrong they turned out to be!
In this time of unprecedented crisis, we are all experiencing moments where we feel beaten down, unappreciated, overwhelmed and frustrated by the circumstances of our current situation. But we are all in this together! And our individual sacrifices will ultimately result in the collective good for our residents, our staff, and importantly, ourselves.
To paraphrase Nazi death camp survivor Viktor Frankl from his memoir A Man’s Search for Meaning, “our individual suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning such as the meaning of sacrifice.” The selfless sacrifices of each and every one of us on behalf of our residents and staff will be the difference in our facilities defeating this virus!
Why I am mentioning Job, Viktor Frankl and my wife Maureen. Because each one of them not only survived their personal experiences of overwhelming adversity, but each flourished in their own wonderfully remarkable way! Job went on to live for 140 years and saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. Viktor Frankl’s memoir of survival has inspired millions of individuals to realize that one can overcome the very worst of mankind and be the better for it. Maureen fully recovered and is involved in so many activities, including volunteering as the head of our school district’s backpack program, a librarian, a school board member and great wife and mother to our four boys.
We are experiencing overwhelming adversity right now. However, there are no other men and women who are more resilient, caring and loving than the men and women who work in our skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. We are all in this together, and together, each of our individual actions will lead us to collectively overcome our present circumstances and create a stronger, flourishing future.
May God bless you as we work together to defeat this pandemic.
STEPHEN B. HANSE, ESQ.
President & CEO
NYS Health Facilities Association (NYSHFA)
NYS Center for Assisted Living (NYSCAL)
Representing nearly 400 skilled nursing providers and adult care/assisted living communities, NYSHFA | NYSCAL members and their 60,000 employees provide essential long-term care services to over 65,000 elderly, frail and physically challenged women, men and children throughout New York State.
Their Mission is to assist post-acute, assisted living and long-term care providers achieve excellence through leadership, professional development and active involvement in the shaping of public policy.
Overcoming Adversity – A message from Stephen Hanse, Esq.