It pays to be proactive.
That’s why, as 2018 came to a close, questions about the future loomed large on the minds of leaders in long-term care and senior living.
What’s coming for the industry in 2019? How will the realities of politics and policy affect our work?
What threats should we be looking for? What opportunities?
And, crucially, what should we be doing to prepare?
LifeLoop is just as interested in these questions as anyone else in the industry. So, for some answers to these questions, we turned to the experts — our customers!
In this post, three leaders weigh-in on what we can expect in the new year.
“We’re going to see a much more educated consumer.”
Rhonda Hendrickson is an Operation Support Specialist at Provision Living, in St. Louis, Missouri. She’s noticed a trend in the last year or so: that Provision’s customers are getting savvier.
“We’re already marketing to a much more educated audience,” Rhonda says. “That’s only going to get more true next year.”
Guided, in part, by their adult children, tomorrow’s residents will be well-versed in the realities of senior living. They’ll have clearer expectations about cost and quality; they’ll be more familiar with what’s available in their areas; and they’ll have much more purposeful questions for staff before they move in.
“By the time they get to you, they’ve probably visited several other communities already. They’re not going to be naive to questions about setting or about care,” Rhonda says.
Senior living leadership should make sure they’re ready to field questions from these sharper consumers. Residents are going to want as much detail as you can provide — and then some.
And, crucially, because adult children will play a major role in new-resident decision making, it will be very important to keep them informed.
“That’s why LifeLoop is such a vital part of what we do,” Rhonda says.
“We’re facing a shortage in qualified workers.”
Leon Grundstein, Founder and CEO of GenCare Lifestylein Seattle, wants to turn our attention toward the economy. “The current plunge in the stock market is going to force us to consider some difficult problems,” he says.
The most difficult one? Leon believes it’s the struggle for senior living talent.
A wobbling economy puts pressure on a workforce that’s already feeling somewhat strained. Senior living communities across the country face shortages in nurses and aides, and if economic conditions stumble, that could make the shortages worse.
“The rising cost of rent, the small pool of affordable housing, these are things that really affect our workers,” Leon says, especially in Seattle. Workers are in a precarious position, one that can be hard to climb out of.
“We need to make sure we give our workforce every available opportunity to improve their circumstances. That’s how we attract and retain good employees. Start with training at Universities and vocational schools. Support those institutions that make that training possible,” Leon advises.
Further, he believes the industry needs to do more to promote itself as a great place to nurture a career. That means improving working conditions for nurses and aides, and dispelling toxic myths about working in long term care.
It will be challenging, but worthwhile, Leon believes. “Adaptation and innovation are how we survive in the future.”
“Regulatory implementation will challenge the entire industry.”
Courtney Schmitz, MS, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Vetter Senior Living, in Omaha, spends much of her working days immersed in the details of regulatory compliance. Among these, she sees one enormous challenge coming in 2019.
It’s also one on every LTC leaders’ mind — the final phase-in of the new Rules of Participation for LTC communities. Also called “The Mega Rule,” these new regulations have dominated industry discussions for the last three years. They’re series of sweeping changes that LTC communities have been required to implement in stages, starting in 2016.
But it’s in November of 2019 that LTC communities are expected to complete the changes. For many communities, that makes 2019 an especially demanding year to operate.
Foremost among the Mega Rule’s strictures is comprehensive, person-centered care planning. This means residents’ strengths, goals, histories, and preferences must all be taken into account when planning out their time in a community.
Communities will now have to credibly demonstrate that every activity in a residents’ day — from their choice of wake-up time, to their meals, to their chosen activities — revolves around their preferences. This is no small task, and one that puts much more pressure on the documentation practices of life-enrichment departments.
Still, though, Courtney is unphased. “We already have the responsibility to advocate for our residents and provide them dignity in life,” Courtney says. “The regulatory changes just make it formal.”
Though no one has a crystal ball, Rhonda, Leon, and Courtney have given us one certainty about the future: 2019 will bring some considerable challenges.
But it’s not just market forces, or economic trends, or federal regulations that are pushing us to our limits. It’s also the nature of the business.
Long-term care, first and foremost, is an industry devoted to serving some of society’s most vulnerable people. That means our work demands more of us. This year, and every year, we need to be as nimble as we are compassionate, if we’re going to give residents the experience that we’d want for ourselves or our loved ones.
The work of service innovation, then, never truly stops. At LifeLoop, we consider it our role — and our privilege — to field these challenges alongside our clients, and adapt to meet the hurdles of the days ahead. It’s through that partnership that we can create the responsive communities that our seniors deserve.
Here’s to a 2019 marked by excellence in service.