ORLANDO, FL — The thousands of examples of compassionate care that providers show residents every day is why the country’s largest nursing home association “will never stop fighting for” them in Washington D.C., despite facing more criticism than ever before. 

That was the promise made Monday morning by Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association. He addressed members at the opening general session of the AHCA and National Center for Assisted Living’s 70th Annual Convention and Expo in Orlando, FL.  

Parkinson noted that despite nationwide quality improvements in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the industry has been subject to “more criticism, more congressional hearings and more OIG reports than ever before.” He added, however, that it shouldn’t stop providers from delivering compassionate care.

Veteran observers, and Parkinson himself — a self-professed “data guy” — noted that his speech was a departure from the usual. He repeatedly emphasized the power of love, and that providers should be prepared to tell their good stories to lawmakers and others.

“Data matters, and policy results matter,” he said. “But our mission is about love.”

“This week, today, this morning, right now as we are here in this room, there are aides waking up tens of thousands of our residents on the resident schedule — not some predetermined schedule set by the state — because they’re so committed to person-centered care. We have aides that are picking out just the right outfit for a resident that might be celebrating a birthday or having special visitors today,” Parkinson said. 

“These hundreds of thousands of acts of kindness are never going to be in a newspaper. There’s not going to be an OIG (Office of the Inspector General) report on random acts of kindness at America’s nursing homes. There’s never going to be a congressional hearing on the hundreds of thousands of great things happening at ALs today, but they are real and they matter,” he added. 

The organization announced Monday that Parkinson’s will extend his 10-year tenure as president and CEO by at least another three years. AHCA and Parkinson agreed to a contract extension for that long, with an option for two more years. 

“So, hopefully we’ll have (Parkinson) around for at least another five years,” AHCA Board Chair Michael Wylie said Monday.

The jovial Wylie, who will hand over the AHCA board reins this week to Debbie Meade, also offered remarks that moved the general-session. Some attendees joined him in tears as he poignantly spoke about his mother, who was in attendance, and his father, who suffered from Lewy body dementia and was eventually admitted to one of Wylie’s Genesis facilities.

“I leave you with three words to live by: Never stop caring,” Wylie said before an ensuing standing ovation.

The AHCA/NCAL convention will run through Wednesday.