LeadingAge Magazine · January/February 2012 • Volume 02 • Number 01

Preserving and Learning: A Talk With Incoming Chair Audrey Weiner

January 15, 2012 | by Gene Mitchell

LeadingAge’s new chair shares her priorities and concerns for the coming year.

Audrey Weiner, president and CEO of Jewish Home Lifecare in New York, begins her term as LeadingAge chair in January 2012. LeadingAge asked Weiner to talk about her priorities as the association works to further its goals.

LeadingAge: You will take over as LeadingAge chair in January 2012. What will be your top priorities as chair?

Audrey Weiner: As I think about my priorities, the first will relate to making sure our members and the elders they serve are best-protected as health care reform is enacted, and work with state associations so we’re advocating from the same perspective.

Second is to ensure that the not-for-profit tax status of our members is protected and similarly, that no revisions of the tax code eliminate the benefits of charitable contributions.

My top political priority involves the integration of Medicare and Medicaid as they relate to managed care. That’s going to be the direction the federal government will take, so how Medicare savings are used, hopefully for the care of the elder, will be an important issue for us. We need an opportunity to eliminate many rules around Medicare and Medicaid usage. One example is the three-day hospital stay. Why is that necessary? If [a patient] can use a bed in one of our communities, and if there is a payment option in that dually eligible plan, we’ve done a good thing. We have treated them better, identified their needs sooner, and used those dollars at not the highest level but at the most appropriate level.

It’s also important that we work hard, as the federal government thinks about new job categories, to see that our employees are able to avail themselves of education monies. Part of health care reform is going to identify new career opportunities and figure out how to sustain them. There will be new positions, such as care navigators. We want to understand what they are and be able to weigh in on what they are.

I am also extraordinarily concerned that there is affordable housing for seniors, and that would mean, for instance that the HUD 202 program should be preserved and strengthened.

LeadingAge: We’ve reached the one-year mark as LeadingAge. A lot has been done, but we are still “building the brand.” What do you think needs to be done to continue that process?

Audrey Weiner: I think what we’ve done so far is fabulous. Every time I get something from a state [association] that has taken this name I get an immediate sense of the alignment of this message. When one hears someone from outside of the “family” talk about LeadingAge, I realize that more and more people know the name has changed and are getting comfortable with it.

I also heard people saying they didn’t really like it or understand it at the beginning, but now we are seeing acceptance on many levels.

We need to get the remaining states to incorporate the name into their own. Our national staff and state partners have done brilliantly in this.

In terms of advocacy, what do you see as the greatest challenges during your term?

Audrey Weiner: Win Marshall held advocacy as his top priority as chair, and he set the stage for me being able to continue advocacy as a high priority. His position was that it was not just the responsibility of CEOs; it was the responsibility of all staff to advocate. We have seen how the number of phone calls and letters has gone up in response to our calls for advocacy. I want to continue that and engage more family and elders in that advocacy. We have a remarkable opportunity with the Policy Congress—a chance for it to be an extraordinarily effective body for articulating desirable policy and orchestrating our advocacy around it.

LeadingAge: In the last decade in our field we’ve seen a proliferation of new business models and expanded service offerings, as traditional long-term care models are modified. A lot of this evolution has been a ground-up phenomenon. What can LeadingAge do to help members continue this evolution, and in what areas can the association lead members?

Audrey Weiner: One of the things we can do is attempt to learn what best practices are—not only what partnerships are possible, but how have they been framed and developed, both practically and legally, and what are the metrics that frame this success? Are there opportunities for partners to share in the risk and rewards of providing excellent access and health care and having excellent outcomes?

The second thing is that when we note that something is happening we publicize it beyond the annual meeting, via the magazine, via white papers, and by using the blogging option. The important thing is that we understand and identify those trends, and understand what members need to learn.

Both the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies and the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research have played very important roles in our ability to think through our challenges and opportunities. Right now, in fact, I’m reading CAST’s 18 case studies because I’m so interested in seeing what the work has been about. The challenge is to make sure these centers continue to be more than relevant, and that they are so far out ahead of us as members that they really are leading the way for us.

LeadingAge: With respect to “talent,” what can LeadingAge do to continue to encourage young leaders to come into or stay in aging services, and how can LeadingAge encourage young leaders to aspire to roles within the association?

Audrey Weiner: I was fortunate enough to chair our talent cabinet. I have respect for the challenge that exists around the younger, smart folks we want to recruit and retain. I think the LeadingAge Leadership Academy is remarkable in its ability to train people, and its alumni association is an asset.

We want every one of our cabinets to have a graduate of the Academy on it. One’s professional experience is improved by being able to learn from peers around the country. The cabinets are in formation and there’s an extraordinary amount of learning to do. It will take a lot of work to keep these fabulous young professionals engaged. It will be worth every minute of our time.