Stuart Butler

To remain financially viable in a post-COVID world, nursing homes need to think more broadly and consider ways that they can serve as a hub for other aging services. That’s the message presented to the long-term care industry Thursday by Stuart Butler, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. Butler spoke to attendees of a LeadingAge coronavirus update call.

Although Butler recognized that the long-term care industry is likely to become increasingly focused on aging longer at home or in community-based settings rather than typical nursing homes, he said that a need for the 24/7 care such facilities provide always will exist. During the call and in a report from the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, Butler discussed the key role that federal and state increases in Medicaid funding need to play in overall nursing home finance reform but noted that operators that can find a way to diversify their business model will be the most likely to see long-term success. Doing so, he said, will lead to a more stable financial structure for the future.

In terms of what this change looks like for nursing home operators, Butler noted that it could be a range of things, including building partnerships with hospitals, senior living villages and other association, but it could also meant re-examining the range of services they provide outside their facilities. In the US, many nursing home operators are already diversifying their
model: operators are acquiring home-care agencies, hospices and assisted living facilities.

“There is also a lot of consolidation taking place,” Butler wrote in the report. “So, the future may well see large companies providing a continuum of types of care for those who can afford it or have financial assistance or insurance coverage. In effect, this is becoming a form of Continuing Care Retirement Communities ‘without walls.'”

Reform may require some creative thinking in terms of how to link up with other institutions or services, but it would be worth the effort to consider a broader array of potential customers, he said. 

“If we simply think about nursing homes as institutions where people live and get cared for, we’re missing out on what their role could be, which would make good sense in terms of their care but also economically,” Butler said.

For more coverage of Butler’s remarks and the report, see this article.

This article appeared in the McKnight’s Business Daily, a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.