Expenses are gaining momentum as the biggest challenge facing independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing operators, according to responses to a new survey by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.
In the March NIC Executive Survey, the results of which were released Thursday, 92% of senior living and skilled nursing operator participants cited increasing operator expenses as a significant challenge, up 15 percentage points from the February survey.
Survey results, however, also indicated a slight optimism about operating margins in the near term. Seventy percent of respondents said that they expect operating margins to increase over the next six months, up 15 percentage points from Wave 49 of the survey, conducted in December 2022 / January 2023, according to a blog post from Ryan Brooks, NIC senior principal.
The majority of participants in the latest survey (57%) said that they expect operating margins to increase 1% to 5% over the next six months, 11% said that they expect margins to increase 6% to 10%, and 2% said they anticipate increases of more than 10%.
Conversely, 9% of respondents said that they anticipate a decrease in operating margin of 1% to 5%, and less than 5% said that they expect operating margins to decrease more than 5%.
Staffing remains a challenge
Staffing remains another major challenge for operators, with participants citing staff turnover (88%) and attracting community and caregiving staff members (82%) as their other top concerns.
Less than one-third (30%) of responding organizations reported retaining more than 80% of newly hired full-time staff members after they’d had one month on the job. This percentage is down from the Wave 39 survey conducted a year ago, when 46% of participants reported retaining workers after one month on the job.
Looking at long-term retention, on average of only 7% of organizations reported retaining more than 80% of staff members after one year, down from 16% from responses recorded one year ago.
Residents moving in with higher needs
With residents waiting longer to move into senior living due to pandemic concerns, approximately half of survey respondents reported that the number of new residents presenting with higher needs increased compared with the same time period last year, Brooks noted. Delayed medical care during the pandemic and the increased age of residents at move-in also were cited as reasons for the higher needs of new residents.
A majority of responding operators continue to have higher lead volumes than a year ago. More than three-fourths of single-site operators (77%) reported higher lead volume, and 70% of operators with two to nine properties reported higher lead volume.
The vast majority (92%) of operators with 10 to 25 properties had higher lead volumes compared with a year ago, but that percentage dropped to 71% for operators with more than 26 properties.
The report includes survey responses from 49 senior living and skilled nursing operators gathered March 1-31.