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The End of Memory Care As We Know It!

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By Steve Moran

I just subscribed to Robert Glazer’s weekly email (like I am not already subscribed to enough stuff). I got my first one this morning and it included this quote:

“The tulip craze wasn’t the end of flowers, the bursting of the internet bubble wasn’t the end of the internet and the Bitcoin crash won’t be the end of blockchain. It’s just the end of the irrational exuberance phase.”

Senior Living Bubbles

We have seen bubble after bubble in senior living and I believe we are in a bit of a bubble right now that has already begun to burst, albeit at a slower pace than tulips, the internet, and Bitcoin. It is and will be most significant in memory care.

Several years ago I interviewed a bunch of leaders about one of the NIC conferences and, for that particular conference, memory care was the big buzz. And, for many, the big takeaway was that the need for memory care was so massive that it would be impossible to build even enough memory care communities, let alone too many.  

And of course, we now know this is not true.

The Pain

I firmly believe the burst of the memory care bubble is a good thing (more about why below). Don’t think I am callous about this. Bubbles are painful, for residents, families, and teams. The memory care communities that are struggling financially (which is what breaking bubbles are all about) almost always sacrifice quality care for residents and families and make work-life for team members a disaster.  And investors lose money.

This is real pain. It would be fair to say that some number of residents have their lifespans shortened and, if we are honest, because of inadequate care residents on occasion die when they otherwise might not have. And yet, I have no idea how to avoid at least some of this. You might suggest that the government should do this but way too often, government-run entities have a pretty poor record.

At the end of the day, life isn’t fair and this is one of those situations.

Why the Memory Care Bubble Burst is Good

Over time, this bursting bubble will be good for everyone:

  • It will wipe out some operators and some leaders who are not really doing as good a job as they should be in serving residents and they will (hopefully) be replaced by better operators.

  • It will force all of the memory care worlds to continue to iterate, not just to survive but to thrive.  

  • It will likely force us to rethink the whole concept of locked discrete buildings or parts of communities.

  • We can expect to see some radical ideas about programming, interior design, and building design.

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