Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Communities Facing Workforce Crisis

86 percent of nursing homes and 77 percent of assisted living providers said their workforce situation has gotten worse over the
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Photo: AHCA/NCAL

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) 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 workforce crisis 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. 59 percent of nursing homes and nearly one-third of assisted living providers are experiencing a high level of staffing shortages.
  • More than 7 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 expensive agency staff. 58 percent of nursing homes are limiting new admissions.
  • 78 percent of nursing homes and 61 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(ies).

The survey was covered by Axios, Bloomberg Law, The Buffalo News, KGAN-TV (CBS-Cedar Rapids, IA), WIBW-TV (CBS-Topeka, KS), WCSC-TV (CBS-Charleston, SC), WZTV-TV (NBC-Nashville, TN), KSTP-TV (ABC-St. Paul, MN), WIVT-TV (Binghamton, NY), Fierce Healthcare, McKnight’s Senior Living, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Senior Housing News, Skilled Nursing News and Provider Magazine, among others.

The survey underscores the severity of the crisis and the need for immediate action from Congress. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows nursing homes and other residential care facilities have lost 380,000 employees since February 2020. As many caregivers are getting burned out by the pandemic, many providers don’t have the financial means to offer competitive wages, resulting in workers leaving the field for jobs in other health care settings or other industries altogether.

The consequences of letting this crisis go unsolved are significant. Stories of nursing homes restricting new patients or shutting down completely because there aren’t enough workers have made headlines in recent weeks. The long term care labor crisis ultimately limits access to care for vulnerable seniors . Without help from lawmakers, more workforce-related closures could occur, uprooting frail residents and their family members.

The reconciliation package under consideration in Congress is an appropriate vehicle to address chronic staffing challenges. AHCA and LeadingAge have proposed several solutions to strengthen the long term care workforce in the Care for Our Seniors Act, including assistance programs for caregivers through tax credits, loan forgiveness and childcare, as well as incentives for higher learning institutions to train the next generation of health care heroes. Federal resources for these long-term solutions as well as proper funding for Medicaid could go a long way to lifting up our frontline caregivers while preparing for a growing elderly population.

Lawmakers cannot miss this opportunity to invest in the long term care workforce and give providers the resources they need to attract and retain staff. A strong workforce will help prevent closures and ensure current and future long term care residents have access to the high-quality care they deserve.

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