Amid talk of innovation on the show floor and insights from keynote speakers about the current landscape of senior living, a prevailing and unanimous concern permeated the LeadingAge Annual Meeting this year: the workforce shortage.
The caregiver shortage in senior living isn’t exactly breaking news. Care communities have grappled for years to secure and retain a complete, longstanding, and well-trained staff. In 2021, 100,000 senior living workers left the industry, intensifying the caregiver shortage. A recent snap poll cited the main reasons staff continue to leave the field are for better pay, better work schedules, and burnout.
The vanishing connection
The caregiving profession is often viewed as a calling. Their deep sense of compassion and commitment to improving the lives of aging adults motivate them to work hard. However, the reality for many caregivers in senior living communities has deviated from this intrinsic calling, leading to an alarming 85% annual churn rate among these dedicated professionals. Instead of dedicating their time to what drew them to the profession—spending quality time with residents—caregivers find themselves increasingly engulfed in an exhaustive never-ending to-do list. From charting and cleaning to planning, facilitating communication, and handling administrative tasks, caregivers fill much of their day with these tasks, pulling them away from their true passion and calling: caregiving.
The frustration builds as caregivers juggle increasing operational duties, leading them to reconsider their commitment to a profession where administrative demands often overshadow genuine caregiving. To address the retention crisis, it’s imperative to rekindle the spirit of caregiving by alleviating the administrative burden, allowing caregivers to refocus on what initially inspired their commitment—the genuine and meaningful interaction with the residents they serve.
Addressing this workload imbalance is paramount to retaining, recruiting, and nurturing a workforce that is deeply passionate about enriching the lives of seniors. Industry leaders must explore innovative solutions to bridge the gap, fostering both business and workforce growth in tandem. One of the most comprehensive solutions is leaning into technology.
Technology as a tool to improve staff experience
Streamlining work processes through automation is a powerful strategy for lightening the workload. By automating repetitive tasks, caregivers can spend less time doing administrative work and more quality time with residents, contributing to their overall satisfaction. Some processes that lend themselves to easy automation or simplification through technology include:
- Replacing tedious tasks like creating bulletin boards with digital displays. activity calendar creation and distribution and sending out reminders with digital alternatives.
- Automating attendance tracking and communications.
- Consolidating resident data in a secure, easily maintained repository.
- Reducing time spent on program planning by offering mobile, ready-to-use digital engagement content like games, music, videos, and educational resources.
- Introducing a digital scheduling system to automate resident transportation and maintenance logistics, facilitate scheduling, and enhance overall efficiency.
- Streamlining resident data collection, analysis, and reporting in a centralized, easily accessible platform, ensuring timely access to critical information for personalized and responsive care planning.
- Implementing communication tools for seamless and efficient connections among caregivers, residents, and families, ensuring real-time updates and support.
In the pursuit of staff happiness, the outcome is clear: engaged and fulfilled staff not only contribute to a happy community but also bolster the bottom line. The ramifications of high churn rates extend beyond the immediate challenge of filling vacant positions; they permeate every aspect of operational efficiency, morale, and resident well-being. Staff turnover hits operators with direct costs related to hiring, training, and separation costs, and indirect costs such as poor-quality resident care and lower satisfaction ratings. Despite tight budgets, prioritizing the retention and training of a satisfied workforce yields valuable returns in the long run. Research even suggests that dedicating resources to staff education and training can decrease the incidence of medical issues, ultimately offsetting higher staffing costs.
As the tech-savvy senior living population continues to rise, senior living communities need to adopt technology to keep residents connected, engaged, and satisfied. Beyond catering to residents, adopting technology becomes essential in supporting staff by automating tasks and streamlining processes. This allows caregivers to focus on their true passion—providing dedicated care to residents. Embracing technology becomes a dual benefit, enriching the senior living experience for both residents and the dedicated staff who serve them.
Interested in learning how customers have used LifeLoop's solutions to navigate their workforce challenges? See how two customers, Westminster Manor and Balfour, found successful outcomes with LifeLoop.