The opportunity for home-based care providers to help fill care gaps within senior living communities appears to be greater than ever, as the vast majority of operators cite staffing as their No. 1 challenge.
In recent years, occupancy has been top of mind for most U.S. senior living operators, an anxiety that has somewhat overshadowed staffing concerns. But after years of oversupply, recent data suggests occupancy is improving, partly thanks to a noticeable slowdown in new construction.
Meanwhile, staffing pressures seem to be worsening.
“Staff shortages have been an ongoing concern with senior living operators in all categories for several years now,” Cambridge Realty Capital President Jeffrey Davis said in a statement. “It has been going on for so long that it isn’t even referenced as frequently in the media as it once was. It’s old news. But, old or not, it’s still a continuing and real problem.”
Cambridge Realty Capital is a specialized senior housing and health care debt and equity capital provider.
Multiple surveys released in the past few months shed light on senior living’s staffing crisis.
The 2019 Seniors Housing and Care Survey compiled by Columbus, Ohio-based health care financial services company Lancaster Pollard, for example, found that 88% of senior living respondents were — more than anything else — concerned about a shortage of workers over the next 12 months. Released in February, the survey included responses from roughly 250 senior housing executives.
Similarly, 40% of senior living respondents cited staffing as the industry’s single-greatest challenge in the 2020 Senior Housing News Outlook Survey and Report, also released in February. The Senior Housing News survey included the views of more than 330 senior living professionals.
“Being short-staffed is a vicious circle,” Davis said. “Existing staff must work harder and longer hours to make up for the shortage. As a result, staff may burn out faster, leading to more staff shortages.”
Several home-based care providers have turned senior living partnerships focused on staffing into their bread and butter. One is Boston-based HouseWorks, which works with about 50 senior living communities.
Another is private-pay home care provider Family & Nursing Care, which works with several senior living communities in the Washington, D.C., area.
Staffing isn’t just a crisis in the senior living field.
Hospice and palliative care providers also struggle with having enough qualified clinicians and caregivers. In fact, more than 26% of hospice providers who participated in a recent Hospice News poll indicated that staffing would be the greatest challenge they would face in 2020.
“The workforce pipeline is a crisis for both hospice and palliative care,” Dr. Diane Meier, executive director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) said during a webinar this week. “It is very clear to us that there will never be enough of a specialist trained workforce to even begin to meet the exploding need for palliative care and hospice services.”
Generally, Interim HealthCare Inc. sees staffing as a major growth driver in 2020 and beyond, whether that’s in senior living communities, hospice organizations, hospitals, schools or elsewhere. Over the last five years, the Sunrise, Florida-based Interim’s staffing line has grown more than 30%.
“We pioneered staffing,” Interim CEO Jennnifer Sheets previously told Home Health Care News. “We aren’t aware of a market in the country that isn’t facing a staffing shortage. This presents a tremendous opportunity. As the industry is projected to be a $19 billion industry next year – we believe we have the resources and capabilities, the ‘playbook,’ to quickly scale our programs in every market, large and small across the United States.”
Granted, for home-based care providers to capitalize on the staffing opportunity in senior living communities and other settings, they’ll need to solve their own workforce problems first.
In an HHCN survey of more than 500 home-based care professionals released last month, 44% of respondents named staffing as their No. 1 challenge.