Before the pandemic, residents were admitted for rehabilitation following elective surgery or a health crisis. The rehab residents either returned home or joined the group of long-term residents who had previously arrived in a similar fashion.
Now, as the threat of COVID-19 recedes from long-term care, we are left with empty beds from a reduction in elective surgeries and from having lost many long-term residents to the coronavirus.
This is combined with an increased familial aversion to nursing homes, capitated healthcare models that favor less costly home-based rehab services and a push towards enhanced community supports for elders, such as the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). While these changes might benefit seniors, they’re not so good for those running nursing homes.
It might be tempting to address the budgetary challenges of empty beds by reducing the number of staff on the units. The logic is that there are fewer residents, so fewer workers are needed.
This reasoning might hold true if the mix of residents was the same as it was prior to the pandemic. From my observation and those of other psychologists I’ve spoken to around the country, the types of residents currently being admitted to facilities are different than the pre-pandemic cohort.