Assisted living and nursing homes occupancy is on the rise, but memory care communities are seeing declining occupancy, according to the latest NIC Executive Survey Insights report released Thursday.

According to data from the Wave 36 survey, almost two-thirds of organizations (61%) with assisted living units reported increases in occupancy from prior surveys, and almost half (47%) of organizations with skilled nursing beds saw recent improvement. Approximately one-third (32%) of organizations with memory care units, however, noted declining occupancy — down from 50% in Waves 35 and 33 (48% and 55%, respectively). Independent living organizations reported that occupancy increases declined over the past four survey waves, from roughly 60% to about 40%.

Close to half (47%) of the survey respondents said they are offering rent concessions to new residents to help drive occupancy. Of those offering rent concessions, three-fourths are offering discounts (76%) and more than two-thirds are offering free rent for a specific amount of time (69%).

About half of the respondents said they expect their organization’s occupancy to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 (52% down from 73% in Wave 33); just more than one-third now believe it will recover by 2023 (38% up from 8% in Wave 33). 

Staffing shortages continue to plague senior living and care operators. In the most recent NIC survey, four out of five respondents with multiple sites (83%) reported staff shortages in more than half of their properties, up from about a half (46%) in the Wave 24 survey reported in March.

According to data collected between March 22, 2021 and Jan. 9, 2022, 97% to 100% of survey respondents have stated that they are backfilling staffing shortages with overtime hours. An increasing number (89%) now say that they are using agency or temporary staff to fill positions, an amount up from 77% in the prior survey. In Wave 36, one-fourth of respondents indicated that their use of agency or temporary staff increased more than 75% in 2021.

More respondents said they are optimistic about their organization’s operating margins. In Wave 36, more than half of the respondents (52%) said they anticipate that their operating margins will increase, which is up from 35% back in September. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they expect margins to increase 1% to 5%, “and a growing share of organizations anticipate growth between 6% and 10%,” according to the report.

The Wave 36 survey includes responses from owners and executives of 66 senior housing and skilled nursing operators received between Dec. 6 and Jan. 9.