Where have all the workers gone? Nursing homes, assisted living homes are facing a workforce crisis

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021

SUBMITTED BY AMERICAN
HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION
In case you missed it, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) recently released a survey of nursing home and assisted living providers across the country. The survey results showcase the urgent need for funding from Congress to address the labor shortages across the long term care industry.
Key findings include:
• Eighty-six 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. Fifty-nine 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. Fifty-eight percent of nursing homes are limiting new admissions.
• Seventy-eight 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 facilities.
Long term care facilities have struggled with staffing shortages for years due to providers’ inability to afford to offer competitive wages largely due to chronic Medicaid underfunding, but with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened tenfold. The Oklahoman reported this week that facilities are already having to restrict admissions of new residents due to difficulty hiring new staff. Unfortunately, if lawmakers in Washington do not take immediate action to help alleviate the crisis, the situation will only worsen. Closures have already been cited throughout the country.
Nursing homes need adequate staffing or they will not be able to offer the care needed to effectively protect residents. During the pandemic, facilities have even been forced to turn away new residents because there simply are not enough caregivers.
Congress can act by addressing chronic staffing challenges in long term care facilities in the reconciliation package currently being discussed. Specifically, AHCA and LeadingAge have developed the Care for Our Seniors Act, a comprehensive reform proposal that includes 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. It is essential lawmakers begin to invest in the long term care workforce so facilities can provide the highest quality of care for all residents.
The staff are the backbone of any long term care facility, and the love and dedication a caregiver provides is life-changing. Nursing homes need to be able to provide competitive wages and programs to incentivize workers to fill vacancies and with the help of Congress, providers will be able to develop a strong workforce for years to come.