A lot of attention has been paid to the occupancy challenges that seniors housing operators have faced since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. This blog focuses on the impact of the pandemic on occupancy by operator size. We conclude that single-property operators generally saw smaller occupancy declines during 2020 than very large operators. New supply, as well as pandemic-related changes in the rates of move-ins and move-outs, contributed to this disparity.
“The respondents of the Wave 24 Executive Survey Insights appear to be cautiously optimistic, with hope that the shadow of the pandemic weathered over the past year is fading. The share of organizations reporting deceleration in the pace of move-ins and declines in occupancy rates is at the time series low for all care segments. In looking back over the past year and the 24 iterations of the Executive Survey Insights results, it’s apparent how closely the survey’s results have mirrored the reality experienced by many operators as they faced daily struggles to keep their residents and staffs safe from contagion—and to save lives.” –Lana Peck, Senior Principal, NIC
Nestled among the many pain points of 2020 were a smattering of bright spots for the seniors housing and care industry. For one, the year ushered in a wave of innovative strategies to combat loneliness in the face of social distancing. Among the top strategies was the use of virtual reality – an area which saw a lot of growth and adoption among operators during the public health emergency. As I delved deeper into researching the topic, I learned that virtual reality – in addition to creating opportunities for socialization and stimulation – has been gaining traction as a staff training tool as well. Embodied Labs’ person-centered caregiver training, for example, provides immersive learning experiences that mimic many of the common conditions and life transitions that impact people as they age. These lab experiences cover vision and hearing loss, Alzheimer’s Disease, end-of-life conversations, cognitive decline, and LGBT and transgender health and aging. In each of these experiences, the trainee becomes the viewer, and assumes a first-person perspective of how older adults experience different aging challenges.
As vaccinations rise and COVID-19 case counts fall in skilled nursing facilities, CMS has revised its guidelines for nursing home visits. Effective on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, nursing homes are allowing residents and their loved ones to finally reunite, hug and hold hands after one year of isolation and psychological burden. This is a long-awaited relief for both residents and loved ones.