With workers in elder care facilities leaving the industry in droves, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities continue to face pandemic problems. A Morning Consult poll from September 2021, found that 20% of healthcare workers quit during the pandemic, while another poll from Incredible Health shows that 34% of nurses plan to leave their jobs by the end of this year.
This high turnover during a pandemic has left many facilities scrambling to find enough staff to care for residents. In some cases, this has led to unsavory situations, such as when the Florida Department of Health reported in September that three skilled nursing facilities had been using “debtors’ prisons” to keep workers from leaving.
“Hundreds of thousands of workers have left assisted living buildings and skilled nursing facilities and haven’t come back.” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living. He added, “We just can’t find workers and when we can’t find workers, the cost is really high.”
A report from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care found that occupancy rates at assisted living and skilled nursing facilities fell by nearly four percentage points in 2020. Since then it has become much worse. According to Parkinson, sixty percent of assisted living centers have closed admission to new residents due to the worker shortage. Many more have closed.
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on senior care facilities, it’s clear that something needs to change. But what?
One option is for facilities to focus on improving the working conditions for employees. This could include better pay, more flexible hours, and improved benefits. Another option is for facilities to invest in technology that can help reduce the need for staff. This might include investing in robotic health assistants or using artificial intelligence to help with tasks like laundry and cleaning.
Whatever route senior care facilities decide to take, it’s clear that the status quo is no longer an option. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to reevaluate the way we live and work, and that includes those who care for our seniors. It’s time for a new way of doing things, and perhaps senior care facilities need to be at the forefront of this change.