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

Providers Seek Clarity for Consumers

January 18, 2012 | by Gene Mitchell

Providers Seek Clarity for Consumers

In recent years I’ve had personal experience with the frustrations of securing various levels of services for senior relatives. While my background is in media rather than aging services, I’ve worked for LeadingAge for quite a while, long enough to have a good understanding of our field, the services available and the funding issues.

Even so, being a consumer of aging services—especially in situations where urgency was required due to pressing medical issues—was a stressful, confusing process. By asking questions I got plenty of help from great people in our field, but even so, I don’t look forward to the day when I find myself in that situation again. So it’s easy to imagine how consumers without previous knowledge of senior services must feel. I’m not even sure that the word overwhelmed, while accurate, is an adequate description of what many people must feel.

LeadingAge’s commitment to “engaging consumers,” the theme of this issue, goes back to the origins of the association, and was put on the front burner a decade ago as one of the priorities of the Quality First initiative. Element number 10 of Quality First, “Public Trust and Consumer Confidence,” can be seen as the guiding principle for some of the articles in this issue.

Our first article, “Meeting Needs, Building Trust,” shows how some providers go beyond their first duty—to be high-quality and transparent providers of their own services—to expand the range of information and services available to seniors. By creating or accessing networks of vendors they can help seniors find trusted help in managing a wider range of life challenges.

Consumers can’t trust you if they don’t know who you are. In “Building Ties to Community Organizations,” you’ll read about how members are building partnerships and networks with community organizations that not only fulfill their missions of service, but also leverage their outreach and raise their profiles to the community.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, has as one part of its mandate the responsibility to help protect the financial interests of consumers aged 62 and up. Read “New Federal Agency Charged With Protecting Older Consumers of Financial Services” for an interview with Hubert H. (“Skip”) Humphrey III, assistant director of the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans. Humphrey outlines the issues that concern his agency, and why financial transparency is such an important issue for seniors.

LeadingAge members know firsthand about the strengths and benefits of continuing care retirement communities, but in recent years there has been some negative press in the consumer media. Fortunately, we now have survey data that reinforces what we know about CCRCs. Read “Residents’ Families Like CCRCs” to learn more about a new survey showing that CCRCs are overwhelmingly popular and trusted by those people in the best position to know—residents and their families.

Speaking of public understanding of aging services, many providers have a second group of consumers—in addition to the families of older adults—that appreciates what they do: parents of children in daycare programs run by long-term care providers. Many intergenerational programs exist, but some providers are taking steps to better integrate the wisdom of long lives and the energy of children. Read “All Aboard! Providers Embrace Intergenerational Care” for the details.

When disaster strikes, the not-for-profit difference shows itself in a big way. Recent severe storms in the Northeast put LeadingAge members to the test and they passed with flying colors, not only maintaining care for their own residents, but offering shelter to neighbors and family and helping each other weather power outages and other challenges. See “Providers Become Go-To Shelters in Harsh Conditions” for more.

Also in this issue you’ll see a couple of member-written articles: “Hiring and Leading Creative Activities Staff” explains one Illinois member’s approach to building, maintaining and appreciating a top-flight activities staff, and “Creative Celebration Proves That Vintage is Beautiful” is a Colorado member’s story of an event that engaged residents and brought back memories of life on the open road.

Many consumers lack knowledge about aging services, but so do people in the health professions. In this issue’s Research Department, read about the Wisconsin Long-Term Care Clinical Scholars Program, which is giving student nurses exposure to long-term care at a couple of LeadingAge-member organizations as a career option.