By Steve Moran

The senior living staffing problem is dire. Kudo’s to AHCA/NCAL for flagging this article:

Nursing Homes Bleed Staff as Amazon Lures Low-Wage Workers With Prime Packages

The article is worth a read but the highlights are that Amazon is setting a new standard for wages and benefits in many markets. It is most acute where they have established farm-sized distribution warehouses that employ thousands of workers around the clock. But nearly every town of any size has a fleet of Amazon delivery people.

They are paying three to ten dollars more an hour with better benefits than nursing homes. Nursing homes are constrained by government payment systems that are slow to keep up. Here is what it means:

  1. Virtually every nursing home in the country is running short-staffed. This is bad for residents. It is likely killing people and providing terrible living experiences. It is burning out those team members who are hanging in there; perhaps worst of all, it means the workers the nursing homes are attracting are going to be those who can’t cut it at Amazon, so likely not the cream of the crop.
  2. Nursing homes are restricting admissions and closing wings to mitigate the staffing challenges. This means patients are stuck in hospitals or being forced to go home when they shouldn’t be at home.

Cities, states, and the federal government don’t do much more than give lip service to the problem. There is this sense that if Amazon comes in, the local economy will grow. Which will ultimately lead to more tax dollars, which will mean they can then increase reimbursements.

Fast Food

It is a ton easier for fast food and many other businesses, they can immediately tack a quarter on to the price of everything they sell and use that to compete. Not so with nursing homes, who are essentially captive to reimbursement.

Assisted Living – Memory Care – Independent Living

It will likely take the loss of thousands of older people’s lives in nursing homes before the tide is turned. But eventually, the rates will get there, though at a cost that will be a blight on the nation. In the private-pay sector, there is no easy solution. Communities will need to get more creative about how to staff their communities. Rates will have to go up which means fewer residents who can afford what they need, what they deserve, and what they saved for.

In the short term, there will be a few senior living organizations that decide to be the In-n-Out Burger of senior living. They will give In-n-Out pay at the top of the market and create a unique work environment, where team members love coming to work.

Those communities will be successful, profitable and create amazing experiences for residents. Survival will be tough for the rest.