Healthcare worker readying a vaccine for an older woman

More than 60% of senior living and care organizations are observing at least some positive effects on marketing and sales efforts since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new Ziegler CFO Hotline survey. In addition, about 29% of respondents indicated that the impact of the vaccine has been “significant” or “moderate.” 

More than 240 organizations participated in the survey, conducted earlier this month. The respondent pool was heavily weighted toward nonprofit life plan communities, also known as continuing care retirement communities. Approximately 58% were single-site providers, whereas the remaining 42% represented multi-site senior living providers. 

When it comes to growth plans over the next two years, most respondents said they are about as optimistic, or slightly less optimistic than they were a year ago. Approximately 54% said they have planned unit expansions, compared with 64% last March, and 20% said they have new community developments in the works, compared with 26% a year ago.

Just more than a quarter (26%) said they’re planning an affiliation or acquisition in the next two years, just slightly higher than a year ago, when 25% reported such plans. Consistent with one year ago, growth plans are more significant among multi-site providers, the survey found. 

The research also found that a small percentage of organizations have mandated the vaccine for staff members (7%). A higher percentage (18%) reported that they did incentivize staff to receive the vaccination.

Results showed that among those operators that mandated staff member vaccinations, the percentage of staff members receiving a COVID-19 vaccination was 82% compared with those without a mandate, at 61%. Interestingly, there was not a significant difference in staff member vaccination rates among those who did and did not incentivize staff. Rates among those providing an incentive was 63%, compared with 62% among those who did not. 

Overall, organizations said that their top concerns for the year ahead were rebuilding census and addressing staffing challenges, including increasing staff pay and increasing recruitment and retention. Many indicated that although they were optimistic about their ability to reopen to guests and add new residents, the industry has a way to go before making a complete comeback.

“I believe full recovery is 2 years away,” one respondent said. “The CARES Act dollars have helped, but the reality of low census will hit soon. Our organization is in good shape, but think our industry is in trouble.”