With staffing shortages, reduced occupancy, the ongoing pandemic and other challenges, it’s a worrisome time for long-term care. A scan of trade headlines might even make one pessimistic about the future of the industry.
Despite these difficulties, dedicated, thoughtful professionals — from LTC leaders to researchers to regulators to front line staff — are endeavoring to continue their mission to serve elders, knowing that the growing aging population will need us.
From my perspective after decades in the field, certain aspects of eldercare services require intervention from those in the position to effect change. Some on the list below have received attention recently, others perpetually, and some not so much, but I believe attending to these areas will contribute to success in the next few years and well into the future.
- Become part of a continuum of care – Even before the pandemic, no one wanted to come into a nursing home (unless they had no home of their own). Since the pandemic, this sentiment has grown exponentially. For the financial health of the country, the emphasis should be on home-based care. For the financial health of the industry, facilities should be part of a continuum of care that allows participants to be admitted, discharged and to return as needed, while the continuum earns money for assistance throughout the process.
- Become part of the community – To ease fears about nursing homes, facilities should build on the fact that most residents or their family members are local citizens. Nursing homes could be more like community centers, with educational and recreational programs for elders, and educational and supportive programs for their families, so that the facility evolves from a dreaded possibility to a friendly, informative, comfortable place filled with familiar helpers. In other words, the kind of place it wouldn’t be so dreadful to move into if necessary.