By Steve Moran

There is a near universal belief there are not enough caregivers to meet the current needs of the senior living sector — and that with the aging population and proposed staffing mandates, it will become even more impossible.

I think this is a hasty response that is not well thought out.


The data is hard to come by, but according to an article at McKnight’s, the current caregiver shortage is 400,000 — which is a lot for sure — and that number is expected to grow. It seems like an impossible problem. It appears that people are simply uninterested in working in senior living. The belief is that people don’t want to work in senior living because the money is inadequate and no one wants to spend their days wiping old people’s behinds.

Hold On Just One Minute

There are right now, today, in senior living communities and nursing homes, caregivers who are providing for the needs of residents. These are people who choose that job, love what they do, are proud of how they make a difference in the lives of older people, and in doing that are making the world a better place.

There is a ton of turnover and low job satisfaction, but when you take the time to listen to what caregivers say, they are unhappy because they are overworked and underappreciated. There are communities that are fully staffed with caregivers who love their jobs and have low turnover.

There is one more important thing to think about. Right now in this country, there are about 5.2 million people working in the fast food industry. Flipping burgers, making milkshakes and fancy coffees. Those are jobs, but mostly not very purposeful, change the world jobs.


Imagine a world where we treated frontline caregivers like the professionals that they are — that we started telling their stories about how they impact the lives of residents, become friends with residents who get no visitors. Imagine a world where we asked our frontline workers what would make their lives, the lives of residents better … and then took those ideas and made them into reality.

If we believed that being a caregiver was as great and wonderful as it is and started telling stories, their stories, letting them tell their stories, we could surely attract 10% of the fast food workers into our industry.

Because there are communities that are doing this, I know you can do it too.

Wrong Thinking

While at this year’s Senior Living Innovation Forum in Napa, Jeffrey Farber the president and CEO of The New Jewish Home in New York, talked about how their CNA turnover rate is 10%. Lest you think they are paying above market wages, they are not. As a unionized community, they are paying what the market is paying.

You will hear a lot more about the world-changing things he is doing in future content.

When you get your CNA/caregiver turnover down to 10%, you are doing something right. You have by definition solved most of your caregiver problems.

Caregivers by the Numbers

  • Today there are about 1.6 million CNAs working in skilled nursing communities.
  • According to a CliftonLarsonAllen study (PDF), nursing homes would need to hire an additional 80,077 CNAs to meet the proposed staffing mandates today.
  • There are a bunch more CNAs and noncertified caregivers working in assisted living communities, but those numbers are harder to come by.