Brian Pinkowski, President
The 2021 RAL National Convention has come to an end and many of us have come to learn of the passing of Gene Guarino, the great light of residential assisted living. For those of us that knew Gene, and those of us inspired by his vision to improve and expand residential assisted living now is the time to reflect on a few of Gene’s many qualities and consider how we can apply them to our own efforts to provide quality care for seniors. I would like to share my experience and observation of three of Gene’s qualities.
Commitment to Quality
Gene wanted to inspire and provide tools for those that bring care to the ever increasing number of seniors. Having opened three of his own assisted living homes in Arizona, he saw that there were basic business tools and skills needed by so many involved with assisted living. He set up the Residential Assisted Living Academy to provide them.
But then he saw that people needed more help in order to improve the quality of care. So he set up a mentorship program, and a network for graduates of the RAL Academy so that they could share information and help each other with problem solving.
Within months of setting up these tools, he realized that there were thousands of RAL homes that were too overwhelmed to keep track of the rapidly shifting legislative and regulatory environment or find continuing education. And they did not have access to the same level of discount programs available to the big facilities. They were certainly too overwhelmed to take action to speak on their own behalf to legislators and regulators.
And so the Residential Assisted Living National Association was born.
And this is where I most closely observed Gene’s commitment to quality. Working with him, or watching him work through countless revisions of text and design for every aspect of the RAL Academy and National Association. He wanted everything to be perfect and easy to understand for the academy graduates and National Association members. If you have gone to the National Convention, you saw the results of Gene’s care. Classy convention design, and speakers chosen to provide exactly what RAL business owners and operators need to provide quality care.
Another of Gene’s qualities was persistence. We, as a society, need that persistence more than ever. Every day in the U.S., 10,000 people turn 65, and the number of older adults will more than double over the next several decades to top 88 million people, representing more than 20 percent of the population by 2050. This country is not yet ready to provide quality care for this many people, and Gene knew this. He worked tirelessly on this problem and was constantly speaking on the topic to inspire others to get involved.
Watching Gene work over this and other problems was inspiring. He would attack a problem, back up and take another look at it and attack the problem again, and again, and again, until the solution was found. That is a critically important personality trait in this business. Residential assisted living home owners and operators face an impressive list of real and potential problems when working with stressed families, government regulators, fussy neighbors, and others. But those who persistently press onward, are successful in providing the quality care that makes the resident and family experience positive, and personally fulfilling.
Acceptance of Others
Acceptance of others was, for me, one of Gene’s most impressive characteristics. I watched him work with many people over the 5 years I knew him and was often impressed when I saw someone getting antagonistic, snippy, or combative with him and watched him handle the upset by giving the person his undivided attention and flowing respect to them. His sincerity in handling people was made more clear to me when those people were not around and he discussed the people and their issues with the same respect. He was always looking for ways to bring people together regardless of their initial attitudes and behavior.
A truly impressive man with an open heart.
As we move forward, I hope we can all continue to take inspiration from Gene’s example, working to constantly improve the quality of care we provide to seniors and others, persistently pursue our goals, and maintain an open heart while working with others.
Gene was successful in passing these traits to his children, who now run the RAL Academy and the other organizations he founded. We can all be comforted in knowing that they will continue to bring those and Gene’s other positive qualities to bear in helping improve care for our seniors.