NIC Notes

Insights in Seniors Housing & Care

By: NIC  |  August 20, 2021

Senior Living Thought Leader Randy Bufford: “We Need to Invest in People”

Ideas and Discussion  |  NIC Fall Conference  |  Seniors Housing  |  Skilled Nursing

What’s ahead for senior housing and care?

Randy Bufford has some thoughts on the topic. As Founder and Chairman of Trilogy Health Services, Bufford is one of the thought leaders attending the 2021 NIC Fall Conference in Houston. The Conference is NIC’s first in-person convening of leaders in senior housing and care since the pandemic began.

NIC recently talked to Bufford in advance of the event to get his take on the industry’s outlook. Many industry leaders plan to attend the Conference to share ideas with others experiencing the same challenges, while also building the relationships that will help them succeed in the future.

Bufford identified five senior living trends to watch:

  1. Labor shortage. “This is the most difficult labor market I’ve ever seen in my 39 years in the industry,” said Bufford. “We need to invest in people.” Trilogy’s approach is to put employees first. “Great staffing leads to great customer service,” he added. Bufford’s advice: Focus on retention. For Trilogy, that means a holistiRandy Bufford Headshot Prof (1)c approach including training programs and apprenticeships to create a career path, a servant leader culture that demonstrates that the company cares about them, and frequent, strategic wage increases. Trilogy, which has 124 communities, raises employee wages gradually, every quarter. Bufford calls it the company’s quarterly wage investment, a program to boost the pay of the lowest paid workers. Caregiver positions today pay $15 an hour and up. “Make those investments wisely and the industry should be able to solve these staffing challenges,” he said.

                        “We need to invest in people.”

  2. Private units. As one of the largest builders of new skilled nursing facilities in the country, Trilogy has switched its prototype design to all private rooms. The pandemic only highlighted the need for greater infection control which is easier to achieve with private rooms. “Dual occupancy units in skilled nursing should be changed,” he said.

  3. Advances in technology. Telehealth is likely here to stay. Remote visits got a big boost when Medicare expanded coverage of telehealth services during the pandemic. Many expect the coverage to continue when the health emergency ends—a net plus for the industry. Also, monitoring devices will continue to be refined to help improve resident health and reduce labor costs.

  4. Innovative infection controls. The pandemic highlighted the need for new approaches. Trilogy launched The SHIELD program, as a comprehensive view of infection control, applying the latest disinfection and cleaning tools. The communities are also equipped with a UV light system that destroys 99.99% of surface and airborne pathogens. Trilogy continues to experiment with special ventilation and filtration products to determine whether they can help limit the spread of viruses. “We’ve learned a lot of tough lessons during the pandemic, but they’re good lessons,” said Bufford.

  5. The intersection of demography and affordability. Overall, Bufford is bullish on the industry as the number of seniors who need help continues to grow. But the rising older population, especially among those seeking an affordable housing option, is colliding with the labor shortage. Bufford sees a possible solution by engaging families in caregiving since they already provide a lot of care services at home. The idea would be to move those relationships to a senior living community where the family would help provide care in return for a reduced cost of services. “The operators that win will be those that innovate in their approach to find ways to provide better care, more efficiently,” predicted Bufford.
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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