As a new year looms, we’re reminded of a pattern that becomes pretty familiar in long-term care if you’ve already seen enough calendar pages disappear.

Like a beloved mother or revered school principal, operators and staff are being counted on to make things right and keep things sailing smoothly. 

Some might consider this being taken for granted. But sometimes there’s a fine line between feeling used and being appreciated to extreme. Even after squinting really hard, you can confuse yourself trying to figure out which it is sometimes.

As a glass-half-full guy, I’m here to tell you that by leaning on you so heavily, your dependents are looking to you with trust and respect. After all, they don’t unload the hardest tasks to the weakest workers or least trustworthy leaders.

And there’s no question there are going to be some enormously hard tasks ahead in the year ahead.

The proposed minimum staffing mandate won’t come to pass in 2024, but by all accounts, the intense pressure to get, and keep, more staff will continue. Your very census-dependent life may be riding on it.

Then there’s the fact that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has already announced its intention to ratchet up scrutiny of infection control practices. And woe be to the provider who gets sloppy about its administration of antipsychotic or schizophrenia drugs, among others in the medicine cabinet.

Already underway is the Sisyphean quest by regulators to force more information about nursing home owners into the disinfectant called sunshine. You do know that eventually they’re going to get it right and close the majority of loopholes so the overly opportunistic scoundrels among you are put off, don’t you? The sooner that day comes, the better.

And that’s a position held not only by yours truly but also by most of the top provider leaders in the country, though they may be unable to too openly admit it, due to political, financial or other value-torquing reasons.

The earnest and sincere among the provider world can use all the help they can get building the sector’s reputation. Let them get on with the righteous work they’ve signed up for unencumbered, I say.

And that gets us back to expectations. They will, of course, be high in 2024. There should be no other way.

As I was informed my first day on this job long ago, long-term care is a needs-based field. With 10,000 people currently turning 65 every day, those care needs are only going to skyrocket.

Guess whom those multitudes of needy people are going to be looking to. 

James M. Berklan is McKnight’s Executive Editor.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.