woman walking down hallway with walker

As labor challenges continue in long-term care, some continuing care retirement / life plan communities are cutting back on the skilled nursing services they offer, according to a new Fitch Ratings labor dashboard.

CCRC employment levels were approximately 12.6% below pre-pandemic levels in the current report. That compares with employment being down 14.2% at skilled nursing facilities. Employment at assisted living facilities is slightly recovered, but still 2.6% below February 2020 figures.

Life plan communities have more flexibility than hospitals in riding the tide of economic pressures by shifting services, Fitch said, noting that some CCRCs are investing in assisted living and memory care services instead of skilled nursing. 

“Pressure on lengths of stay and reimbursement, the growing use of home healthcare over skilled nursing services for hospital discharges, along with a consumer preference to age in place, have already had many [life plan communities] rethinking their skilled nursing service lines,” Richard Park, director at Fitch Ratings, told McKnight’s.

“[Life plan communities] have some flexibility in responding to these labor pressures as they are able to redesign the delivery of dining services and other amenities and are able to adjust the number of skilled nursing beds in service to match its current staffing levels,” he said.

In the Fitch analysis, approximately 8% of CCRCs reported that they had “right-sized” or reduced the number of beds in their skilled nursing units as of Oct. 2 compared with May 24, 2020. The greater number of communities appear to be weathering the storm for now, however.

Michael Smith, corporate director of communications at Acts Retirement–Life Communities, told the McKnight’s Business Daily that the company, based in West Point, PA, has not closed any skilled nursing beds or neighborhoods in its CCRCs due to staffing challenges. 

“We continue to manage our staffing levels above state requirements to deliver the highest levels of service to our residents,” he said.

Likewise, Duarte, CA-based HumanGood has not ceased any skilled nursing services — or  or assisted living services, for that matter — due to labor shortages in its communities, Communications Director Edie Berge told the McKnight’s Business Daily.