This past week Kaiser Health News published an article titled “The Coming Nursing Home Shortage” It recited the usual and well known statistics about the rapidly aging baby boomer generation. AARP then excerpted that article with one of their own. “Strange Math: More Seniors But Fewer Nursing Homes”. I find these articles to be annoyingly frustrating because they take a few facts and paint them in away to create alarm then ignore other facts that provide balance. Here is what is wrong with their thinking:

  •  While it is true the number of nursing homes have shrunk by almost 9% from 2000 – 2009 in order to have a meaningful picture, we need to know the change in number of available beds. I did a web search and the data was not readily available (or at least I couldn’t find it)
  • There was zero data that shows the average length of stay trend.
  • There are clearly some pockets that have a real skilled nursing bed shortage, but overall, the occupancy rate for skilled nursing is well below 90%. This means there is not a real shortage. One might even argue, that the reduction in number of facilities will improve the health of the industry and as an extension, the care for seniors.
  • The biggest incongruity I see is that several times a month I get a call or an email from organizations or individuals that have money burning a hole in their pocket wanting to purchase nursing homes.
  •  Recently I was talking to a friend who’s family owns a facility they are getting ready to sell. They have received two dozen offers on the building and the offered prices were stratospheric.
  • While as one of the articles points out, no new nursing homes have been built in California (a fact I have not verified) I am aware of a number of facilities across the country that are under construction or in development.

More Choices

One of the reasons the crisis is overstated is that seniors and their families have more choices:

  • Seniors with complex medical and ADL needs are staying at home longer using Medicare funded home health and hospice care.
  •  Assisted living communities have figured out how to keep medically frail residents longer by increasing staffing, hiring licensed nurses and partnering with home health agencies.

Are we staring down the barrel at a real problem? Maybe, but the implication of these articles is that the solution revolves around putting more money into the existing system. I believe there is already enough money in the system, but that we need to take a fresh look at how we spend that money, something I will tackle next week. Steve Moran   ++++++++++++++

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Finally: If you know anyone who is looking at emergency call systems I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with them about Vigil Health Solutions.