Just a year ago, in Q4 2019, the average senior housing occupancy rate rose to 88.1%, and the signs were positive for continued improvement. Beth Burnham Mace, Chief Economist for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), predicted at the time that “barring any unexpected shock… demand will continue to be relatively strong.”
Unfortunately, we all got a very unexpected shock in the form of COVID-19. And as a result senior housing occupancy has now plunged to 82.1%, the lowest rate on record. With rising expenses to combat the pandemic, falling occupancy (and thus revenue) could be disastrous for the industry.
So how should senior living organizations address this unprecedented challenge? I’d argue that a relentless focus on resident health and safety is key to keeping your current residents (and keeping them well), and also attracting new residents who may be hesitant about community life. Families often play a critical role in this decision, too. To know their loved one is being taken care of is crucial, especially during these unprecedented times.
The broad foundations for this are in place – PPE, higher staffing levels, visitor restrictions, etc. – but these general measures need to be supported by specific interventions for each individual resident.
This is where advanced care technologies come into play. Remote health monitoring systems – and we’re not talking telehealth – have become extremely beneficial in promoting personalized care planning within senior housing organizations. Individualized caring vastly improves the quality of care provided to residents, but only if there’s enough data to support it.
With recent innovations in technology, data-driven insights are at a caregiver’s fingertips. AI technologies can passively monitor resident health, warning when symptoms of illnesses including COVID-19 and beyond are detected. This is done at an individual level, allowing for fast action and treatment, and limiting the trajectory of an illness throughout the community.
Having this level of insight is key in maintaining occupancy levels. In fact, in some cases it’s been proven to even increase occupancy. A major reason being families feel comfortable with their loved one remaining in a community where they know health and safety is a top priority. When families can see the investment made in keeping their loved one safe, hesitation levels begin to drop.
The disruption that COVID-19 has caused to the industry has lead many families to assume seniors are safer cared for at home. But the family or unpaid caregiver will likely need a place to turn to, as the stress of caregiving can take a heavy toll on their own health and well-being. With advanced care technology within your community, you can assure families that their loved one will receive the highest level of care under your watch. Many symptoms of illnesses are imperceptible, yet with the right health monitoring technology, caregivers can act proactively before illnesses escalate.
It will be a while until we get back to any sense of normalcy, but with the right tools on hand you have a chance to prevent COVID-19 from upending your organization, and continue to provide safe and effective care to residents.