Skilled nursing facilities face an emergent and escalating challenge—rising occupancy rates. To manage this effectively and ensure our aging population continues to receive the high-quality care they deserve, it’s essential to thoroughly understand this trend’s complex nature.
An increase in occupancy doesn’t just affect the quality of care provided—it also significantly influences staffing levels. With more residents to look after, facilities may require additional staff to maintain their standard of service.
Recent statistics highlight a distinct upswing in nursing home occupancy rates.
Twilight Years Are Longer Than Ever
The occupancy levels in skilled nursing facilities have been growing in recent years. This upward trajectory is attributed to many factors, notably, the expanding demographic of older adults. The demand for long-term care services has skyrocketed as the “baby boomer” generation approaches their twilight years. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent.
The extended life expectancy resulting from advancements in healthcare further compounds this demand.
How Heightened Occupancy Impacts Staffing
According to the American Health Care Association and NCAL, as of September 2021, only 4% of assisted living facilities reported they were fully staffed, while over 30% reported a “‘high level” of staffing shortages.
Increased occupancy levels in nursing homes inevitably impose amplified stress on staffing. A larger resident population’s inevitable consequence is a workload surge for the staff, translating to elongated working hours and an inevitable decline in care quality.
This increased strain can instigate burnout, and job dissatisfaction and precipitate elevated turnover rates among nursing home staff.
Being Understaffed Means Reduced Productivity and Possible Closures
The increased occupancy in nursing homes has culminated in a significant workforce crisis. The demand for competent healthcare professionals in this sector has outstripped supply.
The effects of staffing issues reverberate on occupancy levels. An understaffed facility often must halt admissions due to the incapacity to deliver adequate care, effectively capping the occupancy levels. This can even trigger nursing home closures in extreme circumstances, leaving residents seeking alternate care arrangements in haste.
Strategic Solutions to Counter Workforce Challenges
Addressing the workforce crisis in nursing homes is an urgent problem.
Primarily, strong compensation and making sure that staff have the support they need can serve to attract and retain a more proficient workforce. Furthermore, working with a recruiter can give you access to a bench of qualified and experienced staff ready to improve operations.
Additionally, offering continual professional development opportunities, such as advanced training and skill augmentation, can bolster job satisfaction and career advancement.
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