NIC Notes

Insights in Seniors Housing & Care

By: NIC  |  December 23, 2020

NIC Notes’ Top Posts of 2020

COVID-19  |  Economic Trends  |  Market Trends  |  Seniors Housing  |  Skilled Nursing

By the end of 2020, NIC will have posted approximately 140 articles on this blog for the year. Posts range in style and content, offering a mix of data, analysis, commentary, and many insights drawn from NIC events, publications, surveys, and data releases. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic, which we began to write about in March, held sway over our readers throughout the year. NIC Notes has become a reliable source of new datainsights, and forward-thinking perspective, designed to help operators, capital providers and other stakeholders, as they’ve struggled both to protect residents and adapt to a highly challenging business environment. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, NIC went into overdrive, producing numerous new initiatives and resources to help the seniors housing and care sector understand the pandemic’s impact. The blog has served both as a means to efficiently disseminate portions of that new information, such as the latest Executive Survey Insights findings, and as a conduit for operator commentary, practical new ideas from the field, and expert analysis of the very latest data. A review of our most popular posts for the year reveals a pattern: NIC Notes posts that offer practical insights and usable data are drawing record readership in 2020. 

Our first NIC Notes piece on the pandemic, posted March 24th, remains one of the blog’s most read for the year. “Survey: Overwhelming Majority of Senior Housing Properties Continue to Maintain Occupancy,” is subtitled “Residents and Their Families Are Not Abandoning These Communities.” The post reported findings from a survey of private pay seniors housing operators, conducted by Activated Insights on March 18th and 19th. The survey, representing 1,078 buildings and 100,899 units, offered data that countered early media stories of families pulling their family members from nursing homes. 

As NIC Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor Robert Kramer noted in the post, "The results from this survey are especially timely since the investment community has been starved for data in this time of uncertainty." That timeliness and the hunger for data proved to be a major driver for blog readership throughout the rest of 2020. 

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On April 03, NIC Senior Principal Lana Peck posted the first of numerous Executive Survey Insights posts. The weekly survey, which NIC continues to conduct today, is yielding “timely insights from owners and C-suite operators on the pulse of seniors housing and skilled nursing sectors.” Each post on the latest wave of survey results is a top performer, yielding not only many readers, but stunning “Time Per Pageview” metrics of up to 11 hours per post, a fact that helps indicate just how closely this important data, and Peck’s analysis, is being watched.  

The survey offers a wealth of information on the current state of the industry. Peck offers a detailed breakdown of survey respondents’ demographics, revealing a mix of U.S. operators, including for-profit and not-for-profits, small and large companies, operating few or many properties of all types.  

The survey yields the latest on a variety of important metrics, including change in occupancy by care segment, pace of move-ins and move-outs, labor strategies, staff supports, and development pipeline considerations.  

But, as reported in another top ten blog post, Survey respondents can leave their comments and concerns, many of which reflect the impact of the crisis on a more human level. Using a survey respondent’s comment as a title, the April 17 post, “We Feel We Are Alone in a War Zone” focuses on the more personal impact of the pandemic, particularly on struggling operators and their staff.  

The post shared numerous anonymous comments, along with observations, which included this: “The comments reveal a perspective that is seldom represented in media reports: that it is no easy task to fight this highly contagious killer, particularly in a senior living environment populated with frail elders who often require hands-on assistance, specialized care services, and close monitoring every day and night. Many operators are fighting to save lives, while simultaneously easing the anxieties and concerns of their residents, staff, and families. 

NIC Notes readers also flocked to posts that offered analysis and insight on trends that will be impacted by the pandemic. In “The Forgotten Middle Post COVID-19,” posted April 15, NIC contributor Jane Adler offered readers a seat at a key “town hall” session from the 2020 NIC Spring Conference. Subtitled, “More seniors will need an affordable alternative for housing and care as the consequences of the pandemic unfold,” the post offered insights on how the pandemic will impact this large – and growing – demographic in the near future. 

The post features insights from NIC Chief Economist Beth Mace; study co-author Caroline Pearson, senior vice president, at NORC at the University of Chicago; Jan Eyer, regional president at Optum, a division of United HeathGroup; James Lydiard, general manager of CareMore’s Touch program for senior living communities; Kevin O’Neil, chief medical officer at Affinity Living Group; and Diane Burfeindt, vice president of population health, Presbyterian Senior Living. 

Another NIC initiative launched in response to new COVID-19 challenges, was a series of “Leadership Huddle” webinars, offering live, interactive moderated discussions, with a focus on the intersection between capital providers and operators of seniors housing and care.” Each of these events was covered by a blog post featuring a detailed recap, including key quotes and observations from the webinars.  

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The most-read of these posts, “Leadership Huddle: Cooperation as Seniors Housing Operators and Capital Providers Fight COVID-19 (April 10) outlines the frank discussion between operators and capital providers, as they face a protracted pandemic and begin to look ahead to a ‘new normal.’ Panelists Fee Stubblefield, Founder & CEO, The Springs LivingKathryn Sweeney, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Blue Moon Capital Partners LPand Wendy Simpson, Chairman, President & CEO, LTC Properties, offered up their chief concerns and insights on their experiences.  

The post brings readers into a very human discussion about an extremely difficult situation for business leaders in seniors housing and care. The post includes several key quotes, including this, from joint-venture-structured capital partner Sweeney, “This is really hard. Discussions, truthfully, lean to the empathetic rather than the financial side of the scale. We want to make sure our operators are not worried about spending money on PPE and test kits.” She pointed out that, although many operators have protocols in place, “Nobody has experience with this. We’re all running to catch up.”  

Another closely followed series of blog posts drives thousands of visits to NIC Notes. When NIC Senior Principal Bill Kauffman posts his analysis on the latest NIC MAP® Data Service Skilled Nursing Monthly Report, readership always spikes. The report offers key monthly data points, which, when analyzed and digested by Kauffman, provide greater transparency for the nation’s skilled nursing markets. 

The most-read of Kauffman’s posts for the yearPace of Occupancy Decline Slows in Skilled Nursing, like all of his posts, focuses on the key findings of interest to operators and capital providersThe post covers the pace of occupancy decline, Managed Medicare patient day mixMedicare revenue mix, and Medicare RPPD trends – all critical data for the industry – and clearly all of interest to NIC Notes readers. 

In a very different type of post, yet another NIC Senior Principal, Ryan Brooks, rewarded readers with an analysis of the latest academic research on COVID-19 penetration rates in nursing homes. Posted on June 19, “Characteristics Affecting COVID-19 Penetration in Nursing Homes” reports that, Recently published studies from academics at Brown University, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago have suggested that there are a few key characteristics that can be associated with higher penetration rates of COVID-19 in U.S. nursing homes.   

As Brooks points out, not all of the characteristics of penetration were expected. Offering insights on facility size and location, non-chain status, percentage of African-American residents, five-star ratings, and ownership structure, the post contains some surprises.  bethmace_844315

A regular contributor to NIC Notes is NIC Chief Economist Beth Mace. Of her many popular posts, the most-read for the year, posted October 29th and drawing a top-ten audience, was, “The Ongoing Impact of COVID-19: Six Takeaways from NIC MAP’s 3Q20 Seniors Housing Data Release Webinar.” As explained in the post, “NIC MAP® Data Service clients attended a webinar in mid-October on key seniors housing data trends during the third quarter of 2020. Findings reflected the impact of COVID-19 across the seniors housing and care sector, led by NIC’s research team.” The post reveals key takeaways, shares a few slides from the presentation, and offers readers a complimentary download of an abridged presentation. 

Finally, the most-read of all NIC Notes posts for 2020 was Planning for a New Normal as Seniors Housing Reopens. Posted on May 19th, this article delves into the details involved in adapting a community to life not only during – but post-COVID-19. To gain real-world insight and practical considerations, NIC interviewed Jonathan Cook, President/CEO of LifeSpire Living, an operator of four continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) in Virginia. The resulting post features numerous useful and practical examples of adaptation, which, during a time of disruption and rapidly shifting market factors, may explain why so many of our readers have rewarded it with their time and attention, as they also look ahead, and plan for a post-COVID ‘new normal.’8 

About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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