Overworked, sad, tired, female healthcare worker sitting on the floor of a hospital corridor
(Credit: Juanmonino / Getty Images)

More than half (52%) of assisted living providers participating in a new survey say that their overall workforce situation has worsened since January, and 48% are concerned that they may have to close their communities if workforce challenges persist.

The National Center for Assisted Living on Tuesday released the results of its “State of the Assisted Living Industry” survey of 120 assisted living providers during its Congressional Briefing.

“The survey shows that the workforce crisis in assisted living has not improved, and we are deeply concerned that more assisted living communities will have to close their doors,” NCAL Executive Director LaShuan Bethea said. “Assisted living has been largely forgotten by public health officials during this pandemic. It’s time they received the resources and the support they desperately need.”

On average, assisted living providers said that operational costs have increased 40% compared with a year ago. And more than one-third (37%) are operating at a loss; 35% said they cannot sustain the current operating pace for more than a year.

Thirty percent of participating providers said they are limiting new move-ins (24%) or closing their communities (6%) as a result of the operating and staffing challenges.

Speaking Tuesday at a Congressional Briefing before members headed to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers, Bethea called the “overwhelming financial stress and lack of continued support” a “devastating situation.” She urged participating assisted living providers to share with members of Congress and their staffs personal stories and to demonstrate the effects that their work has within long-term care.

“Tell them what would happen if closures and ongoing workforce shortages continue to plague our efforts,” she said. “Talk about the impact on those who need our care. Where would they go if assisted living communities and other senior care weren’t accepting residents because they could not find workers to care for them? What if they couldn’t find a community within 10, 50 even 100 miles of family?”

According to the survey results, 63% of assisted living providers are experiencing staffing shortages, with 25% of overall respondents describing the shortages as high and 38% describing them as moderate.

The majority of responding providers (87%) said that they are having a somewhat (44%) or very (43%) difficult time hiring new staff members, with half of all responding providers (52%) turning to temporary agency staff to fill shifts. Almost all (98%) participants said they have asked existing staff to work overtime or extra shifts to make up for staffing shortages.

The biggest obstacle facing assisted living providers in hiring new staff members is a lack of interested or qualified candidates; 67% of providers described this challenge as “extremely big,” and 23% said it was “moderately big.”

Other obstacles to hiring, respondents said, is the inability to offer competitive wages (71% said that it’s an extremely or moderately big challenge) and personal commitments preventing people from entering the workforce (56%).

To try to recruit and retain employees, 93% of providers said that they increased wages in the past year. Other strategies providers have implemented included strengthening the workplace culture (75%), offering bonuses (69%), promoting staff members (55%), paying for training / education (55%) and offering additional benefits (38%).

See detailed survey results here.

The American Health Care Association released the result of a survey of nursing homes on Monday during the Congressional Briefing.