MINNEAPOLIS — The senior living industry must transform to meet the changing needs and expectations of residents and their families, a panel of senior living leaders said Tuesday at Argentum’s 2022 Senior Living Executive Conference.
“Ultimately, we need transformational change; but there will be a lot of little changes along the way,” Merrill Gardens President Tana Gall said during a discussion of C-Suite executives. “I’ve never been more optimistic about this industry,” she added.
Gall was joined by Bickford Senior Living President Joe Eby and New Perspective Senior Living President Chris Hyatt in sharing their perspectives and offering insights into the biggest challenges facing senior living, which Argentum hopes to address through its strategic priorities related to people, trust and choice.
LCS President and CEO Joel Nelson moderated the session, announcing that he will replace Sharps Compliance Corp. President and CEO Pat Mulloy as chairman of Argentum’s board. The association is exploring the evolution of the senior living profession and the products it offers for the next five to 10 years and beyond, he said.
Eby agreed with Gall that transformational change is coming.
“It’s going to be an overhaul of what we do and how we go about doing it,” he said, adding that relationships will be important in meeting the needs of residents and advancing public policy. “It’s going to stretch us.”
The pandemic exacerbated workforce challenges through the Great Resignation and workers “burning out from what we do,” Gall said, adding, however, that she remains optimistic.
“What we can do as an industry is come together,” she said. “It’s finding ways we can work not as competitors, but as a sector to go out and find new people.”
Providers need to be more flexible in the way they see caregivers, turning to unconventional tactics to meet the needs of workers, Eby said.
Providing career pathways for workers is important, Gall said. Operators, she added, must shift their thoughts — the treatment of new employees is as important as the treatment of new residents.
“Somebody took me under their wing, saw something in me that they thought could be successful in this business and helped me along the way,” she said. “We have to do that more and find those spirits out there that can replace us someday.”
Operators are looking at a variety of tactics related to workforce issues, Hyatt said. They include paying a little more, paying faster, ramping up an emphasis on culture, and providing leadership, culture, performance and standard operating protocols.
Senior living sells a socialization model and has been doing the same thing for a long time with the same model, Eby said, but the care needs of residents is rising as the average resident age increases.
“What we’re seeing, what we have to do as an industry, is evolve into types of care,” Eby said. “The resident is different, families are different, expectations are different.”
In post-pandemic society, people will want to stay home longer, and Eby said that the challenge for senior living will be how to change that trajectory with new ways of thinking and new ways of care. The key, he said, is developing relationships earlier.
Hyatt said working with preferred partners can allow operators to focus on providing residents the best experience, while clinical patterns can provide quality care.
Gall said another aspect to senior living’s evolution is providing an affordable option to middle-income older adults. Merrill Gardens launched its Truewood by Merrill, which goes back to basics by offering a simplified product at a moderate price.
The senior living industry is on the government’s figurative radar thanks to a fair amount of Provider Relief Fund money, Nelson said. Data, he added, will help provide transparency, allowing the members of the industry to talk in one voice, so to speak, and share its value as a provider with proven outcomes.
“There are going to be some critical changes,” Nelson said, particularly with policy. “It’s coming, we have to prepare for it and we have to embrace it.”
Previous coverage of the 2022 Argentum meeting appears below under Related Articles.