The coronavirus pandemic of 2020/2021 has had an outsized effect on the long-term healthcare industry. Caregivers and residents alike were faced with significant changes, challenges, and heartbreaks. Now, as the pandemic is slowly loosening its grip, researchers are unlocking data that has powerful ramifications for the healthcare sector’s future. Just as nursing home insurance protects against operational and liability exposures, data analysis serves to inform changes that can keep nursing home residents and caregivers protected from future infection risks.
A Crushing Toll on Nursing Homes
Almost immediately after COVID-19 infections began to spread in the United States, the New York Times tracked infection impacts on nursing homes. As of June 1, 2021, when updates ceased, the newspaper’s online database reported that one-third of all U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus took place in nursing homes. This equates to 184,000 deaths of residents and caregivers. The virus affected 32,000 long-term care facilities and 1.3 million individuals were infected in total in these facilities.
Faced with the losses of staff members and residents, nursing home managers scrambled to implement changes that would protect others. The pandemic strained nursing home insurance policies nearly to the breaking point in some cases, but rapid improvements in infection control and care resulted in thousands of lives being saved.
Statistics That Can Improve Future Decisions
The annual Home Care Benchmarking Study is an important document for nursing home owners and managers. In its 12th edition – the largest ever – the study revealed insights into how the pandemic impacted the long-term care industry and what the future of the industry may look like.
Three key areas stand out in the study report:
- Demand for services has jumped during the pandemic.
- Recruitment and retention of staff has become a dominant focus.
- Caregiver satisfaction levels have set new high records.
As many as 25% of all agencies responding to the benchmarking survey have indicated a significant jump in demand from at-risk seniors. The demand is spread between different long-term care models, including nursing homes, home healthcare operations, and senior care centers. 37% of all reporting agencies experienced at least a slight increase in demand for services.
Long-term care facilities have long been plagued with poor staff retention rates. Lower-than-average wages, competitive healthcare sectors, and staff burnout contribute to high attrition. In many cases, caregiver shortages have led to increases in claims of abuse or neglect. While nursing home insurance is designed to protect against these claims, forward-thinking facilities have adopted retention programs to alleviate the strain. The effort has paid off; the benchmarking study reported that recruitment and retention programs were now a primary focus for many of the nation’s nursing homes. Identifying qualified candidates, then creating workplace environments to attract staff – and keep them – is a long-term risk management program that helps to make facilities safer for residents and staff alike.
Caregiver satisfaction levels have plummeted in recent years. Caregiver shortages and a “do more with less” approach adopted by many struggling healthcare facilities has led to poor job satisfaction. Thankfully, the pandemic reversed those trends. The benchmarking study reported that overall caregiver satisfaction is at a historical high based on the previous 11 years of research conducted by Home Care. One of the key contributors of this increase has been the support shown to caregivers by communities across the country. Caregivers have performed above and beyond expectations during the pandemic, and their efforts have been noted by residents, family members, and community leaders.
Takeaways from the Benchmarking Study
Nursing homes are at a crossroads now that the pandemic is coming to an end. Vaccine distribution programs to at-risk individuals have slashed infection rates. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have adopted programs and procedures to improve infection control. Operational changes have also pointed toward a safer future. The benchmarking study and anecdotal evidence collected from thousands of care facilities inform future decisions to improve the quality and safety of care delivery.
Nursing homes must do more to recruit and retain qualified caregivers. Shortages among professional staff can result in excessive nursing home insurance claims and can also drive up overhead expenses. Facilities need to refine existing infection control practices to prevent the spread of potentially fatal diseases as well. Finally, keeping staff happy and engaged is the key to long-term success. Nursing homes have added health and wellness programs to their offerings for caregivers, allowing them to cope with the high workloads associated with their healthcare facilities.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.