Long-term care occupancy rates have fluctuated consistently since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent months, though, these rates have consistently been on the rise, indicating a potential recovery from the massive plummet that unsurprisingly occurred at the beginning of 2020. Still, despite increases, the growth is slow, and this slow increase rate has brought a new set of challenges for nursing home facilities. Anybody who’s interested in improving the quality of care in nursing facilities must first understand the nursing facility challenges that staff and administration are currently dealing with.
Decrease in Managed Medicare
With the slow pace of occupancy increases, nursing homes have seen a general decline in overall revenue from Medicare and state subsidies. This is largely due to the decrease in occupancy, which reduces a facility’s Medicare RPPM, but it can also be attributed to the decrease in COVID-19 cases. With the successful rollout of vaccines throughout the nursing home population, fewer residents are getting sick, and states have reduced available subsidies as a result. This declining reimbursement has posed a major financial challenge for many facilities.
Continued Staffing Shortages
Yet another major problem plaguing nursing homes is the lack of qualified staff to fill available positions. Indeed, this is a problem affecting nearly every industry in the U.S., but it’s particularly problematic for health care facilities that rely on employees to ensure residents receive adequate care. Without enough staff to serve patients, some facilities have been forced to curtail their available occupancy, which has resulted in lost revenue, too. Nursing home facilities will likely need to improve their recruiting efforts in order to attract and retain quality staff members.
Slow Increase in Occupancy
In addition to the aforementioned problems, occupancy rates are only increasing slowly, which means that the recovery process is likely to be slow, too. As more families feel comfortable with nursing home occupancy in the midst of COVID-19, this may change — but for now, the problem persists. What can nursing homes do to boost occupancy and restore revenue? For the sake of nursing home risk management, facilities must first address the lack of staff. A facility that doesn’t have enough employees may put patients’ health and wellbeing at risk, which is a major liability for any facility.
Continuation of COVID-19
Of course, the biggest challenge of all is the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many other industries have attempted to restore normalcy, the nursing home industry has struggled to recover. Because the elderly are uniquely vulnerable to the virus, many families are hesitant to trust nursing homes as new variants are still emerging. Though it’s unclear when COVID will be over, nursing homes can combat its impact by building relationships with families and establishing trust.