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SNFs: Maybe the Future Isn’t as Dim as We Think


It’s easy to talk gloom and doom about the future of the senior living and long-term care industry, especially skilled nursing facilities. So it was a breath of fresh air to read an article last week in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on projections for the industry by Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association.


I suggest everyone read it. As it turns out, things are getting better, and Parkinson’s numbers prove it out.


The Good Signs

These are the good things Parkinson talks about. We should all take note:

  • SNF occupancy now sits at about 74.5% nationwide. Still, a long way to go from the 80% enjoyed by the industry before the pandemic, but more than halfway back from the 67.5% low in January 2021.

  • Recovery averages about 2.5% every six months. At this rate, we should see the industry back to 80% occupancy by 2023, where it was before the pandemic.

  • Thanks to the “silver tsunami,” occupancy will continue to rise to the low to mid-80 percentile by 2024.


What’s Driving This Recovery?

There are a few factors.


The Aging Population

It’s the demographics, pure and simple. We talked about this past June in a CareWork blog. How Long Can Legislators Ignore The Plight of the Senior Care Industry? We are more than halfway through the baby boomer generation turning 65. Americans 65 and older will more than double from their 2016 numbers of 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060. The percentage of seniors in the population will expand from 15% to almost 25%. The number of seniors over 85 (most likely to need post-acute and senior care services) will quadruple, and then some in the next 20 years.


Fewer SNFs

The other factor driving this is the drop in SNFs operating across the US. This was a trend before the pandemic, but it has continued. As we reported in March in another CareWork blog post, Why CareWork Matters, between 2015 and 2019 (before the pandemic), 550 nursing homes closed their doors. Another 500 were shuttered during the pandemic, according to Mark Parkinson. He also projects that another 100 to 200 will close in the next year as we grapple with the continuing string of COVID variants. This means fewer SNFs to care for a growing number of seniors needing their services.


Sadly, and it needs to be pointed out, the overwhelming number of those facilities that did close represented the weakest, SNFs that were not watching the numbers, or their leadership engaged in shoddy business practices.


How to Get Your Share of the Silver Tsunami

Increasing business means doing the right things inside and outside your facility. If you are watching the numbers, you know how many site visits turn into new residents. Is that number one in three? Your goal should be one in two. Do the things that will get you there.

These include:

  • Training staff to greet everyone with a smile.

  • Pay attention to referral sources. If one hospital or doctor sends you a couple of residents, make sure you visit and thank them.

  • Emphasize to your staff the importance of building census. If everyone from your health director to the director of nursing to the front-line caretakers understands the importance of census and their role in building census, your results will be better.

  • Work on staff development and retention. The staffing shortage in the industry is a challenge, and as the census starts to build back up and exceed previous levels, It will become more acute. Read the last two CareWork blog posts (here and here) about how to use employee mentoring to increase employee retention.

  • Suggest that all managers and leadership in your organization join a local service group—Kiwanis, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce—or sit on a non-profit board such as the YMCA or some other group. Members of these groups are often leaders and influencers in the community. They have lots of connections, and people listen to them.

Check out a previous CareWork blog, Some Things You Might Not (or might) Know About Rebuilding Census in Long-term Care. We cover the basics of census building in detail, including the things we discussed here.


Introduce CareWork to your organization


CareWork is an operational platform that brings together all of the information housed in the other systems you use. Instead of looking at your data one system at a time and manually comparing it to company targets, CareWork gives you a single login to view holistic data in a 360-degree view. You can see the connections. Whether you are a skilled nursing facility, assisted living, or CCRC, we give you an easy-to-use single source of truth for the health of your operations. View staffing, census, scheduling, and much more, and you can do it at a glance.


Ready to make care work easier? Contact us today.

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