The Future of Long-Term Care for Facilities: 2022 Guide

The future of long-term care
The pace of change in post-acute care is accelerating and the next several years will likely result in a future of long-term care that looks very different from the past. So, how can forward-thinking leaders adapt and adjust? Here’s a look at past, present, and future LTC predictions and trends to help you to better align your staffing strategies with your goals and build a staffing plan that will protect your residents, staff, and budget going forward.

Past LTC Predictions

Back in 2009, researchers tried to predict the next half century of long-term care. We’re still not too far off from when those predictions were made, but it’s worth noting that many of them were in line with what we’ve seen over the past several years, such as:
  • The graying of the Baby Boomers
  • Lower fertility rates
  • Increased population diversity
  • The continued pressures of chronic illness
  • The increase of patient consumerization
  • The growth of home- and community-based care
What wasn’t accounted for, though, is the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the long-term care industry.

Present Trends Taking Shape

As the present plays out, we’re seeing industry trends that will continue to unfold for years and impact the future of long-term care. Here are three of those trends that are taking shape right now.

1. Staffing Remains a Challenge

Turnover in healthcare has always been high, but rates in senior living in particular are standing out. Leaders in these facilities are tasked with maintaining quality and a positive provider experience while also facing turnover rates of nearly 52% for some positions. There has also been an overall decline in jobs. Nursing homes have lost about 15% of their total workforce since the start of the pandemic, with employment numbers continuing to decrease on a monthly basis. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) haven’t fared much better, facing a roughly 11% loss of their workforce, which has continued to decline on a monthly basis.

2. Technology is Becoming Necessary to Address Staffing Challenges

As turnover persists and care needs have been complicated by a pandemic, an aging population, and the continued rise of chronic illness, the need is growing for technology to address staffing problems now and in the future. Successful tech strategies will need to align with long-standing issues, including broken and outdated staffing models, an increasing demand for home health, and a widening skills gap as experienced nursing professionals age out of their careers.

3. Regulatory Compliance Is on the Rise

Nursing home leaders saw a relaxation in training requirements during the pandemic, but this didn’t last long. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reinstated staffing requirements later in 2020. In 2022 CMS has been instituting even stricter staffing guidelines. Leaders invested in the future of long-term care have been keeping an eye on both national and state-level regulations as the country adjusts to ongoing and emerging pandemics. This includes grass roots movements like a push for minimum, mandated, nurse-to-patient staffing ratios to improve the experience of clinicians and to protect patient safety.

What Are the Main Challenges for Long-Term Care in the Future?

No one can say for certain where the future of skilled nursing facilities — or the future of elderly care in general — will look like, but a few hints are emerging. Here are four likely trends for the future of long-term care that you should keep an eye on.

1. A COVID Reset Will Be Necessary

COVID “changed everything,” leaving large numbers of nursing homes reeling from staff reductions after the most severe outbreaks. Today, many are still struggling to refill vacant positions, with a lack of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) standing out as the most glaring issue. This talent drain has helped shine a light on the difficulties that nursing home workers face, including low pay and failures to meet nurse-staffing minimums. As one example, a 2022 McKnights report found workforce vacancies of around 30% in Wisconsin which limited occupancy rates to the high 60% and low 70% range. This report contained key recommendations to address this problem, such as:
  • Certification flexibility
  • Funding sustainability
  • Better compassion for professional caregivers
  • Reductions in administrative burdens
  • Investments in technology and education
To the last point, investments in technology are one way to help make progress on all fronts. Keep an eye out for tools that can help you to streamline your shift staffing process and broaden your staffing pool, increasing flexibility for both your schedulers and nursing professionals.

2. Skilled Nursing Will Take Additional Blows

Skilled nursing was strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Skilled Nursing News, the industry can expect to see continued pressures through 2023. One very important example of this is the fact that government support and funding is drying up. While there are some signs that individual states might provide financial assistance, there will still be a pronounced impact on the LTC industry overall. SNFs can find their footing by staying nimble and keeping their eye on thriving even as they’re pressured to not do much more than survive.

3. Closures Will Persist

Nursing home closures have been one of the darkest features of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they aren’t over. The American Health Care Association has predicted that another 400 nursing homes could go out of business by the end of 2022. Closures have been dominated by smaller facilities with under 100 beds, usually in urban areas where residents are Medicaid recipients. CMS has also announced that it plans to decrease reimbursement for SNFs by $320 million in 2023, so closures likely will be a feature of the near future of long-term care.

4. Home Care Will Dominate the Long-Term Care Discussion

Part of the pull away from nursing home support has been fueled by a new focus on home care. Although it didn’t pass, President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan set aside $150 billion for in-home care, with the goals of improving low wages for workers and reducing waiting lists for in-home services. In addition, the Choose Home Care Act of 2021 set up an add-on payment to establish Medicare home health benefits for patients 30 days after discharge from a hospital. As the demand for home care increases, long-term care will need to pivot. Monitor this shift, especially its impact on your census numbers and volatility in staffing needs.

Is Your Facility Ready for the Future of Long-Term Care?

Amidst all the challenges in the long-term care industry, there are steps you can take now to brace for what’s to come. Partner with IntelyCare today to see how you can build a flexible, durable, and cost-effective staffing strategy going forward.
Megan is a business writer with over 15 years’ experience in healthcare enterprise technology. She holds an MBA and B.S. in Healthcare Administration. She now keeps an ongoing eye on the latest developments and successes in healthcare admin technology and the people who use it to build a better world for providers, patients, and their care communities.

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