Are you ready for the truth?


What I have learned about safety, security and life from my 90-year old in-laws has been a wake-up call for me. It not only has informed my future, but it has made me question my present. Let me explain.

On Saturday, we received a call from my mother-in-law asking that we come over to their retirement home because my father-in-law needed to go to urgent care. Of course, we asked them "Why?"

It turns out they followed a protocol from the retirement home that recommended that a call be made to the on-call nurse at the facility if they believed they needed help. The nurse then would arrive at the apartment and assess the situation and make the appropriate recommendation. In this case they had recommended "urgent care". Urgent care centers provide easy access to quality healthcare for the times when your primary care physician’s offices are closed. They are not considered appropriate for emergencies. 

When the nurse arrived at approximately 2pm, she witnessed a man in a fetal position on a bed who was having difficulty breathing and had been in this state since the morning. His lungs appeared to be rattling. 

What the retirement home's nurse did not have was any data on any of the residents in the home. No data on whether they could drive, their ability to make informed decisions (cognitive capability, dementia, etc.), their mobility, their general health or medicines. Without any of this information the nurse provided a recommendation for urgent care and then left. We got the call a few minutes later. 

It took us 40 minutes to arrive. Once we saw him we knew: Call 911. Upon arrival the EMT made their assessment and took him to the Emergency Room at the local hospital. They immediately put him on oxygen and began to triage the symptoms. They began to treat him for pneumonia. And they began to prepare us for his death. The EMT and the ER doctors could not believe that the nurse had recommended urgent care. 

I could only ask myself: How did we get to this moment?

What I have not told you is for some time my mother-in-law has been showing signs of dementia and has also become increasingly prone to falling. My father-in-law has restricted mobility and depends on an electric wheel chair to get around. Their ability to care for one another has increasingly been getting more difficult. And, to make it worse, they still believe they can. He still has his car keys and attempts to make runs to Costco. He has neuropathy and cannot feel his feet. She struggles to get out of the car and stand at the entrance while he parks. It is tough to believe that the way you have always been may not be the way you should now be. And their children have not been able to make a collective case for change. 
The retirement home and their residents are blissfully unaware of the state of their security and safety. The entry points are not monitored although a PC flickers unattended displaying video of key hallways. As I already have mentioned, resident information is not available to their internal "first responders". The first responders have no protocol for helping activate their recommendations: ("Can I call your son-in-law?") They have handed out alert fobs, but they cannot even track the signal to a specific room. 

So, I asked myself: How will I be ready for the truth when I am at that age? And who will I listen to for advice on how to be safe and secure? How can I avoid false assumptions of security and safety?

And that became an aha! moment. I could apply many of these questions to the security industry. Many companies today have provided their employees an assumption of safety and security. But the assumptions lack definitive roles, processes and technology to perform when an incident occurs. And the "advisors" are unable to break through the assumptions based on a variety of things including: 1) The business model. Example: The retirement home would not spend money on a comprehensive risk assessment that would outline the key gaps in the safety and security of their residents. 2) A lack of understanding of their own processes and communication that leads to the false assumptions around safety and security. 3)The resident's naivete in properly assessing and ranking their housing investment especially regarding safety and security. How many employees, students, residents or patients, consider security as part of their scorecard for evaluating their workplace, education or healthcare? 4) A value of privacy and independence that constrains or prevents adequate care. Examples: I don’t want a camera monitoring me. I don’t need to wear an identity card. I can tailgate my way into the facility. 

This is not a retirement home issue. This is a cultural issue. And an individual responsibility issue. 

Who can and will tell us the truth about our security and safety programs and ourselves? And who can connect that truth to the reality of our personal and professional lives? And who can make the value proposition to the entire ecosystem of investors, business executives, employees and customers so that safety and security becomes the new norm, not a reaction to an incident?

My father-in-law nearly died. My wife and I sat down with the executive director of the retirement home to do a "hot wash" of what had happened. We did the same with our family. Promises of action and remediation were made. But you get the sense that what really needed to happen for things to change in the business model and the behavior was for my father-in-law to die and a subsequent law-suit to be filed and prosecuted. Sound familiar?

There is a better way. Isn't there?