Is the Proof in the Pudding?
I keep reading and hearing that a post COVID-19 resurgence in long term care is coming. Yet, as nursing facilities face an oncoming wave of new COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and flu these awful illnesses certainly do not convey even the slightest confidence for a resurgence in nursing facilities, especially nursing homes.
Right now, a key to unlocking a resurgence (often described by many as occupancy and revenue increases) is a workforce recovery. Nursing homes are still not seeing the kind of workforce recovery that that many other health care sectors are seeing. Without an appropriate workforce in nursing facilities the occupancy rates simply cannot increase for facilities that have a goal to do this and many facilities are attempting to pivot in their service delivery offerings or number of beds available to counter this. And the reality is that skilled nursing facilities are now caring for residents who are “higher acuity” meaning they are coming to nursing facilities often sicker and with more chronic conditions that require more care not less.
A prevailing thought by many owners and operators is to simply take on these higher acuity patients in hopes of some improved reimbursement. Not so fast! It’s more than simply adding bodies to shore up staffing. Higher acuity residents, especially in the progression towards Value Based Care, demand and deserve an absolute on care quality and clinical excellence.
With an understaffed workforce and less cash on hand, how do struggling facilities pay for and provide for the comprehensive training needed to ensure the skills competencies to meet the demands of higher acuity care?
Nursing facilities have really gotten a bad rap especially during the pandemic. But owners and operators who are ethical in their practices, who are really trying to provide great care to our senior and disabled populations are really suffering. At every turn there are monsters to face and obstacles to overcome. Potential new viruses, continued legislation toward home care, less than adequate Medicare and Medicaid rates, unresolved workforce issues and more all continue to fuel the inferno that is ravaging so many nursing facilities. It’s currently survival of the fittest out there.
Certainly nursing homes as they are will need to change. Care models, environment changes and more will have to be part of a transformation. But the fact is, nursing homes will continue to be of value to a large segment of our senior and disabled populations in the future. And by the way, the Baby Boomers are coming to a facility near you.
Never mind the litany of industry prognosticators who are attempting to put a positive spin on the nursing facility industry, reporting a future resurgence possibly in 2023 (some have said 2024) without any logical reasons provided as to why such a resurgence would actually occur. The reality is that without significant government and private sector assistance now a resurgence is pure fantasy. And resurgence without improved equitability in services and in senior living choices, improved care quality, reimbursement model changes and a transformed workforce amounts to nothing more than the same old, same old. We can do better than that.
Don’t believe the positive hype that things will magically get better. Until significant government and private sector assistance (AKA “the proof”) is provided, our nursing facilities will continue to suffer and many more will eventually close. And maybe that’s the plan along? Then what?
Right now, the proof is certainly not in the pudding. Please advocate for our seniors and for our disabled!
For more informaiton on how we can help your organization, please reach out to:
Michael F. Masse, OTR/L- Senior Director