I recently sat down for a discussion with Jim Reiker, senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer of Americare Senior Living, a nationwide senior living and skilled nursing organization. Jim revealed how he and his team choose to address some of the industry’s challenges.

He believes the top three challenges facing the industry today are:

  1. Census – attracting new residents
  2. Reimbursement rates – they’re down
  3. Staffing – there’s a shortage of qualified people

Senior living communities, skilled nursing facilities and continuing care retirement communities across the country are facing similar challenges, but each facility chooses to address these challenges differently. Jim has been with Americare since 1986. He understands that resident care and staff engagement must be priorities. The company’s brand mission states “Care is in everything we do,” and Jim shared some of the ways they demonstrate that throughout the organization.

Census: Attracting new residents with ratings

Americare enjoys an industry-high rating. I asked Jim if he was concerned about ratings, especially on the skilled side of the business.

“We’re always thinking about our rating. It’s what the consumers look at when considering their senior living options,” he said. “We are proud that a large majority of our facilities have a rating between four and five stars. This is also important when you think about current value-based purchasing incentives, as well as penalties, that are based on the same metrics that contribute to the star ratings. We have quality improvement plans in place, and we’re always looking at those to maintain our status as one of the top-ranked facilities in the country.”

Reimbursement and staffing

Reimbursement rates are down industrywide, so communities of all types are looking for more cost-effective products. And one of the biggest concerns right now, which was hidden in the past, is staffing.

“We aren’t only experiencing challenges in finding quality, skilled workers,” Jim said. “We are having a hard time getting people to apply, especially in rural areas. We have found we’re not just marketing to prospective residents; we’re now marketing to potential employees in the same way, and looking for ways to make the work environment better for them is crucial.”

Systems that improve the work environment

Americare uses our Encompass no-fold linen system, and I wanted to hear what lead Jim to that decision.

“We have a long history of working with Encompass, and they brought the no-fold linen system to our attention as something to consider,” he said. “It was a solution we considered because it addressed all three of our concerns at once: attracting residents, engaging staff and increasing care quality.

“We’d been hearing about no-fold linens for quite some time, but we wanted to see it for ourselves,” he continued. “Initially, we decided to introduce it in a pilot facility first. Immediately on implementation, our caregivers were raving about it, and our residents were sharing their appreciation for the home-like feel of the linens. We felt like, in general, it made the bed more comfortable, and being resident-focused, that was exactly the type of result we were looking for.”

Potential benefits of the no-fold linen system:

  • It does not stain. You have to work really hard to get a stain on the product, which increases product life and laundering efficiencies.
  • Residents and visitors both have noticed the softness of the material and how comfortable it makes the beds for residents.
  • It is easy for staff to work with. The wrinkle-resistant, color-coded, no-fold system is designed to make the whole linen management cycle easy for staff members.
  • The no-fold linen system is designed to last for about 18 months. Americare’s pilot facility went three years before the organization had to buy a piece of replacement linen.

Americare has added the no-fold linen system to all its facilities.

Jim also said felt the new linen system was having a positive effect on productivity. He said Americare didn’t start using the product to increase efficiencies, because they have mostly smaller-scale facilities. However, even though they haven’t tracked the hours saved in the linen management process, they have noticed an increase in the time that staff members has been able to devote to residents. The certified nursing aides have been able to spend less time worrying about making the corners of the bedding perfect and more time caring for residents. This not only enhances the care they can provide; it engages workers and helps them feel more invested in supporting the people they care so much about – and for.

Jim found a solution to address common industry issues in a way that prioritizes resident care and employee engagement. Linen can make a difference when the goal is to provide high-quality resident care. A goal we both share.