Past LTC PredictionsBack 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
Present Trends Taking ShapeAs 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 ChallengeTurnover 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 ChallengesAs 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 Successful tech strategies will need to align with long-standing issues, including broken and outdated staffing models, an increasing demand for home health, and a widening skills gap as experienced nursing professionals age out of their careers.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 RiseNursing 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 NecessaryCOVID “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