Survey Says: Senior Housing Faces Workforce Crisis

Nov 22, 2021 at 10:52 am by Staff

Mark Parkinson

At the end of September, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 skilled nursing and long term care facilities across the country, released a survey of nursing home and assisted living providers across the U.S. Results from the survey highlight an urgent need for Congress to address the labor shortage facing the long term care industry.
Key findings include:

  • 86 percent of nursing homes and 77 percent of assisted living providers said their workforce situation has gotten worse over the last three months.
  • Nearly every nursing home (99 percent) and assisted living facility (96 percent) in the U.S. is facing a staffing shortage, with 59 percent of nursing homes and nearly one-third of assisted living providers experiencing a high level of staffing shortages.
  • More than seven out of 10 nursing homes and assisted living communities said a lack of qualified candidates and unemployment benefits have been the biggest obstacles in hiring new staff.
  • Due to these shortages, nearly every nursing home and assisted living community is asking staff to work overtime or extra shifts. Nearly 70 percent of nursing homes are having to hire agency staff, and 58 percent of nursing homes are limiting new admissions.
  • 78 percent of nursing homes and 71 percent of assisted living facilities are concerned workforce challenges might force them to close. More than one-third of nursing homes are very concerned about having to shut down their facility or facilities.

"The survey demonstrates the severe workforce challenges long term care providers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Too many facilities are struggling to hire and retain staff that are needed to serve millions of vulnerable residents," said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.

Since the survey was released, the workforce crisis has only deepened. At the beginning of November, AHCA/NCAL officials released an alert citing data from the Bureau of Labor showing skilled nursing facilities attribute a loss of more than 380,000 employees to the pandemic.

The issue also causes a ripple effect with staffing shortages forcing facilities to turn away new residents and temporary rehab occupants, making it difficult for overwhelmed hospitals to discharge patients to nearby skilled nursing facilities. AHCA/NCAL officials also said lower occupancy rates create a lack of resources to enable facilities to provider higher wages and better benefits to attract new workers and incentivize those already on staff to stay.

The national organization recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan, asking the FTC investigate price gouging among some staffing agencies. AHCA/NCAL alleges some agencies are charging anywhere from double to quadruple what providers pay their staff.

Parkinson said facilities cannot solve these 'perfect storm' problems on their own. "Lawmakers across the country must prioritize long term care and that begins with providing resources to address workforce challenges. When facilities have the means to offer competitive wages and training programs, workers will follow. We have laid out key proposals in our Care for Our Seniors Act, which will allow us to boost our workforce, but without the help from Congress and state legislators, this will not be possible," he stated.

AHCA/NCAL Responds to Vaccine Mandates

Following the recent release of the CMS regulation on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for healthcare workers, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL released the following statement.

"Once again, we appreciate the Biden Administration's efforts to ensure that as many workers as possible in all health care settings are vaccinated. Nursing home providers have dedicated themselves to increasing staff vaccination rates, and as a result, three-quarters of employees are fully vaccinated today. We are committed to forging ahead and encouraging all staff members to get these safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

"While we support the overall intent of this CMS policy, we are concerned that the execution will exacerbate an already dire workforce crisis in long term care. A hard deadline with no resources for providers or glide path for unvaccinated workers is likely to push too many out the door and ultimately, threaten residents' access to long term care.

"Even a small percentage of staff members leaving their jobs due to this mandate would have a disastrous impact on vulnerable seniors who need around-the-clock care. Across the country, access to long term care is becoming strained as providers have no choice but to limit admissions or even close their doors due to workforce shortages. We hope to continue working with the Administration to make the federal vaccine mandate successful while supporting our residents and caregivers."



Care for Seniors Act

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