Long-term care facilities rebounding after pandemic

The pandemic had a long-term impact on long-term care facilities.
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -The pandemic had a long-term impact on long-term care facilities. While many other places in the U.S. dropped mask requirements and regular temperature checking, long-term care facilities are still doing those procedures to keep people safe, and they’ve had to navigate staffing decreases.

More than 20,000 Nebraskans rely on skilled nursing facilities or assisted living for care. Those in the industry said facilities are focusing on employee retention and technology to fill the gaps.

It’s just a week past labor day, but dozens of people are writing Christmas cards. They’re for senior citizens, who’ve been through an isolating time during the pandemic.

“Most people do not realize the burden that is still on our assisted living communities, they’re having to still quarantine still test,” said Jalene Carpenter, Nebraska Health Care Association.

It’s been difficult for long-term care facilities, they’re still feeling the effects of staff shortages.

“Across Nebraska (we) are down roughly 10% of healthcare workers,” Carpenter said. “And those are workers that are CNAs, health care professionals, but also dietary and activities. Really crucial people that help our facilities operate.”

At the Windcrest on Van Dorn in Lincoln, the staff that cares for residents was cut nearly in half. Recently, they’ve started adding employees.

“I wouldn’t say so much that I’m hearing that it has returned to normal, I think we’re in a good place here in our community,” said Catherine Horner, Executive Director at Windcrest. “And that we’ve done some of the right things to really focus on what the staff was needing, whether that be increased benefits, better wages, more flexible schedules, we were willing to do all of that.”

Some positive developments have come out of this tough time too, like a push to use more advanced technology.

“Looking at opportunities of efficiencies, and so thinking about things like robots that help deliver meals during dining service, you know, those can be big game changers,” Carpenter said.

Numbers from the Nebraska Health Care Association show that by 2026, the need for healthcare support workers is projected to increase by almost 18%. That’s almost double the projected increase for all jobs in Nebraska.