When a Smell Isn’t a Smelll


By Mark E. Smith

My daughter and I were talking about the horrors of care facilities, and one in particular came up that I’ve visited, where the odor was overwhelming.

“They should hire you to fix that kind of place,” she said, with a belief in me that only an adoring daughter can have in her father.

“It’s not that easy,” I said. “See, in order to make it a better place, I’d have to get rid of the bad smell, and that’s a huge task.”

“How hard could that be?” she asked. “It’s just a smell.”

“Really hard,” I said. “The smell isn’t just a smell. It represents what’s called systemic issues. The smell is caused by much larger issues.”

“Like what?” my daughter asked. “Can’t you just get rid of a smell?”

“Not in this case,” I replied. “See, the smell is caused by overall improper care, from soiled bedding to poor hygiene care of clients. In order to get rid of the smell, you’d have to change the entire infrastructure of care.”

“How would you do that?” she asked.

“Well, you’d start with the management and work your way down – leadership is where accountability for the smell starts, but not where it ends. Every employee there is ultimately accountable.” I explained. “You’d have to change the way everything is done, retrain staff, probably fire some and hire some. But, once the smell was gone by dramatically changing the way everything is done, you’d have among the best run facilities in the country.”

“So, to get rid of the smell, you have to get rid of the real problems, and that starts with the people who run the place because they’re allowing all of the problems to happen, right?” she asked.

“Exactly,” I said. “You have to find the root causes and fix them. Someday you’ll learn in life that most often a seemingly small symptom is the result of a very complex cause – from relationships to business. … A smell is never just a smell in these cases. Always look deeper.”


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

One thought on “When a Smell Isn’t a Smelll”

  1. I have seen institutions since the 1970’s in school and after in collage. I cannot describe the stench which greets you as you go through the wards. I still can go to some nursing homes and one will smell horrible and then the one down the street from it it totally different. The care is the difference, the way people are respected and worked with makes a difference! I hope those places will soon be a distant memory for our people. I am a quad CP/MD and don’t want to have to go to one of THOSE place’s ever!!

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