Not surprisingly, nursing homes make money by keeping their facilities fully stocked with patients. Many expenses relating to the operation of skilled nursing facilities are fixed– utilities, lease of the property and staffing— are all relatively constant for nursing home operators– regardless of how many people are in facility. Lower occupancy rates obviously translate to lower profits at most skilled nursing facilities.
Despite the obvious economic incentive to keep beds at facilities as full as possible, I was somewhat disappointed when I read an article appearing in the Rockford Register Star by Melissa Westphal, “Nursing home leaders: Need is being met”, chronicling how the nursing home industry is dissatisfied with the low occupancy rates in many counties within Illinois- in the 80% range and the rate is threatened to decline further as more care options begin to take hold.
In fact, management from several nursing homes appeared at public hearings to protest two proposed long-term care facilities in the Rockford, IL area. The proposed facilities include Pecatonica Pavilion, a specialty assisted-living facility and Warriors’ Gateway, a residential and vocational training facility for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries (tbi’s).
Facilities such as Pecatonica Pavilion and Warriors Gateway are part of an emerging trend in the long-term care industry that provides specialized facilities according to the specific needs and desires of the patients. Increasingly, seniors that may have been shuttled to a nursing home in the past now have more options including: home care nursing, short-term rehab, supportive living and community-based services.
Of course, no one wants to see businesses suffer, but I have a hard time accepting the fact that we should restrict the care options available to our senior because the nursing home industry doesn’t want the increased competition from nursing home alternatives to encroach on its bottom line. As a nursing home lawyer who has seen many unhappy nursing home patients and families, I strongly support all programs directed at improving the quality of life for seniors– wherever they choose to live.
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