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Tips for senior living facilities facing tough years ahead

Sep 27, 2021

During the pandemic, senior living facilities became one of the hardest hit healthcare segments. Beyond the mortality rate that affected seniors disproportionally, there was also the separation caused by lockdowns. With loved ones no longer allowed to visit, some families removed relatives from nursing homes to care for them at home.

When discussing numbers in the senior living segment, the most important one is called “the census”—the name given to the population of seniors living in facilities and nursing homes. Right now, the census is down. This is forcing senior living facilities to change the way they do business.

For senior living facilities and nursing homes, they are in the middle of uneven territory. On the one hand, numbers are down and facilities are struggling to reach capacity. On the other hand, in the very near future, the aging Baby Boomer population is so large that there likely won’t be enough facilities to accommodate them.

Finding ways to bridge this gap is key for this vital segment of the healthcare landscape.

Steps senior living facilities can take now

With so many negatives in such a short time, senior living leadership needs answers and steps to take now. Here are some ways you can address these challenges and manage the post-pandemic new normal of your senior living facility.

  • Educate on safety: Communicate within your community about the safety protocols that assist in managing COVID. Leadership, staff, visitors and families of residents should be told of safety measures implemented to keep seniors safe. Also, the successful vaccination rates should be spotlighted as a way to return nursing home residents (and their families) to a place of normalcy and stability. If restrictions have been eased, or will be soon, that is a major announcement your group should publicize.
  • Develop a financial plan: Low census levels result in a financial downturn. Leadership and planners must act now to develop steps that must be closely followed, using financial tools such as budgets, spend-down sheets and staffing plans to help businesses manage through down times.
  • Evaluate your market area: To determine the need for senior living services, your facility can run an assessment to determine market need for your services area. The market is traditionally defined by where your referrals have come from, and searching by zip code can be one way for you to determine demographics.
  • Focus on short-term solutions: Long-term, demand will be there with the upcoming wave of Baby Boomers, but the concern today is how to operate until that wave hits. Top find solutions to help you over the next 10 years, leadership should explore:
    • Do we have too many beds? Should we downsize our nursing home capacity?
    • Should we convert nursing home sections into assisted living sections?
    • Should we try different model configurations?
    • Should we develop a specialty like a memory care unit? Especially since options like this one could attract interest from a wider distance.

Focus on staffing and recruiting the right people

There is a national shortage of caregivers. By 2030, we will be short more than 150,000 caregivers; by 2040, 355,000, according to recent research. Turning to agencies for short-term help can quickly drain your budget.

That means facilities need to compete for the workers that are out there. A smooth, fast hiring process can make all the difference. If you don’t already, look into using a human capital management system can allows providers to recruit, hire and on-board staff quickly and efficiently.

Preventing turnover is often more cost-effective than hiring new employees. To be competitive and keep employees, you’ll need to ensure you pay is comparable with competitors and that you offer additional perks and benefits, such a flexible schedules or tuition reimbursement. 

How Wipfli can help

Wipfli has expertise in the senior living sector, and our teams can provide you with guidance to help your organization. We can help you:

  • Develop an annual budget
  • Complete a market study to evaluate the need for services in your area
  • Prepare a financial forecast to determine the financial impact of eliminating, reducing, increasing or adding services
  • Train your personnel on iSolved, a human capital management system to help you recruit, hire and on-board workers
  • Evaluate your financial viability on a capital project to upgrade your location

Schedule a talk with our experts and learn more about how Wipfli can support your organization. Tell us the challenges your business is facing, and we will develop an action plan specifically for you.


Larry P. Lester
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