The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented challenges to the skilled nursing industry. Nursing homes have been especially criticized due to the number of deaths and lack of access families have had to their loved ones. Focus has shifted to home health care where families can look after their loved ones in the safety of their homes. The home health care industry has been rapidly growing for both post-acute and long-term care. In October 2020, home health referrals had increased 109% compared to their 2019 rates. The question that arises now is, “Is the skilled nursing facility at risk for another disaster?”
The pandemic has allowed families to take care of their loved ones from home as work and school is being conducted remotely. When the world resumes normalcy, it is expected that families will not be able to dedicate the time to provide care for their loved ones as they have been since last year. Additionally, family members may not have the appropriate skills to provide the right kind of care that one would receive in a skilled nursing facility. In the future, the biggest challenge for skilled nursing providers will be to convince family members that their loved ones will be safe in such a setting.
Kevin Morris, president of skilled nursing operator BaneCare Management, believes that home health care cannot replace the need for institutional services. He was quoted saying, “We do not want people in our facilities that do not need our services. What I’m concerned about is there are people that aren’t in our facilities they desperately need our services , and the adverse effects that might lead or result from that.”
Nursing home numbers have stabilized since the vaccinations started late last year and infection rates have dropped since. Census levels still remain at record lows. BaneCare is one of the many skilled nursing operators that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Their census numbers were at 74% in February compared to 96% at the beginning of the pandemic
Real estate investment trust (REIT) landlords are expecting the skilled nursing industry to return to normal after the pandemic is over. Occupancy numbers have been at record lows since the pandemic started. However, these investment analysts expect them to rise in the future as the pandemic ceases.