Many senior care facilities have made headlines in the last few years. Cases of COVID-19 spread rapidly within these communities, poor living conditions, lack of funding and President Joe Biden’s improvement plan are just a few.
Despite the negative publicity, there has been an improvement in senior care facilities over the last decade. According to a report by National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), more patients were coming to nursing homes for shorter stays and returning to their permanent residence. Since 2012, there has been a 7.8 percent increase in successful discharges back to the community. Meanwhile, there has been an 8.7 percent decrease in people returning to a hospital during nursing home stays since 2011.
These facilities have seen vast improvements during the ongoing labor shortage. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that between February 2020 to March 2022, long- term care facilities have lost over 400,00 employees – outpacing any other industry. In March 2022, nursing homes lost 2,500 jobs. Along with the industry being underfunded, the pandemic contributes to the shortage, creating a burnout among facilities workers.
“The work in long-term care is around- the clock as we care for our nation’s frail, elderly population who need 24/7 assistance,” says a representative from NCAL. “While many providers would love to offer caregivers greater flexibility, facilities also must make sure shifts are covered so that resident care doesn’t skip a beat. As a result of the pandemic and the workforce shortage, caregivers are burned out. They have been fighting this virus for more than two years, and long-term care providers are struggling to compete for workers due to fixed government reimbursement rates. We need support from the government to grow the long-term care workforce. With enough caregivers, facilities could offer benefits like greater flexibility.”
Because of the staffing shortage, some senior care facilities have been forced to limit new residents and to even shut down. According to a report by NCAL, over 1,000 senior care facilities have closed down since 2015 – with 327 closures occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, nearly 45,000 seniors have been displaced.
On top of that, an additional 400 nursing homes are projected to close in 2022 based on current financial reports. Despite Biden’s efforts to improve these facilities, federal policy makers are considering making cuts to nursing home funding in 2022, such as reduction to Medicare payments and ending the public health emergency.
“Long-term care is experiencing the worst job loss than any other health care sector. The sector is facing a 15-year labor low, losing more than 400,000 caregivers since the start of the pandemic.” says a representative from NCAL. “Even prior to COVID-19, chronic Medicaid underfunding left long-term care providers struggling to compete for qualified, dedicated employees. Meanwhile, many long-term care providers are forced to turn to temporary staffing agencies in order to ensure residents have enough caregivers. With meaningful and sustainable resources, long-term care providers could become more competitive employers to build back our workforce, and thereby, ensure access to care for our growing elderly population.”
The pandemic has brought a light to longstanding challenges that senior care facilities are facing. Unless proper reform is passed, more will be at risk of closure.
Mackenna Moralez is the assistant editor with Healthcare Facilities Today.