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As an upcoming wave of baby boomers continues to shape the senior living landscape, a new white paper looks at top concerns those prospective residents are raising in evaluating their options, and it provides best practices to help operators achieve expectations.

Although more than 55% of survey respondents said they likely would need services offered by assisted living communities, 88% had reservations about those communities, primarily related to care, cost and facility quality. The survey was conducted by customer experience research firm A Closer Look.

Staffing was the top concern among respondents, who cited a lack of supportive caregivers in assisted living communities as a worry.

Many expressed worries about high turnover rates, as well as unsupportive or indifferent caregivers. They also raised red flags about staff qualifications and expertise, resulting from a prevailing perception that caregivers lack the necessary skills and training to provide quality care. Respondents said low pay for caregiver jobs leads to less qualified staff and the possibility of abuse.

“Assisted living can be a lifesaver or a life ender, depending on the staff,” one respondent stated.

The overall quality of services, facilities and living conditions also was a running theme among respondents, who raised issues about cleanliness and hygiene standards, lack of amenities and unmet expectations. More than 300 respondents specifically commented about poor-quality meals.

Cost of care emerges as major issue

The cost of assisted living emerged as a major deterrent for 91% of respondents. Higher-quality communities were perceived as cost-prohibitive without financial assistance, whereas more affordable options were associated with potential compromises in care quality, amenities and staff qualifications.

More concerning was the belief among 33% of respondents that primary health insurance would cover assisted living expenses. Data released recently from A Place for Mom found that almost 40% of families underestimate how much assisted living will cost.

Cost concerns led prospective residents to consider alternatives to assisted living; more than 62% said they would consider living with a family member or relying on those individuals to check in on them occasionally. Almost 60% said they were open to the idea of home care, equating that option to greater independence, comfort and a reduced risk of potential elder abuse.

The report authors noted that the findings highlight the need for greater education or potential changes in healthcare offerings to accommodate  a growing aging populations.

Best practices for senior living operators

A Closer Look offered some best practices to help operators change the narrative and educate prospective residents and their families about the value of assisted living:

  • Improve caregiver support and enhance staff qualifications by offering competitive wages and providing ongoing training and professional development opportunities.
  • Strengthen oversight and monitoring through supervision, regular audits and clear protocols.
  • Prioritize quality by offering excellent services, better dining options, a variety of activities and socialization opportunities.
  • Increase transparency around pricing, services and quality standards.
  • Advocate for affordable senior living options by working with policymakers and healthcare providers on potential financial assistance programs or insurance coverage to alleviate the cost burden for older adults and their families.
  • Identify and address areas of concern by offering anonymous feedback options, conducting in-person visits/tours, performing unannounced assessments of food and dining experiences, evaluating caregiver recruitment processes, performing competitive analysis, and conducting surveys and focus groups targeting older adults and their adult children.

“By understanding and addressing the concerns of potential residents and their families, senior living operators can foster trust, alleviate worries, and meet resident expectations with these best practices,” the report concluded. “Creating a supportive and high-quality environment will improve employee morale, attract more individuals to consider senior living options and also provide a better quality of life for seniors as they age.”

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