The post-acute evolution occurring in the long-term care industry provides plenty of challenges for today’s senior living providers — and also some big opportunities.
That was among the top takeaways of a recent Senior Housing News webinar entitled “The Future of Post-Acute Care in Senior Living.”
“These are very exciting times for all of us who work in the long-term care profession,” said Kathleen Collins Pagels, president of health care consulting firm KC Pagels & Associates. “We know we have to address higher acuity, more complex medical needs, chronic disease management, and we really have to gear up for a wide range of specialty services people can traverse throughout the continuum of long-term care.”
Here are three tips and insights shared during the webinar:
1. Be flexible in care settings
The role of the senior living provider in the overall care continuum is changing, and providers need to be ready to embrace that change to thrive, according to Bob Benson, executive director of Rolling Green Village, a life plan community managed by LCS in Greenville, South Carolina.
“We need to be looking at how it is we increase our value, as providers, to the people we serve,” Benson said during the webinar. “That value is reducing costs and increasing the predictability in the outcome of the care and cost.”
Providers must also be prepared to care for their residents where they want to be cared for, and not just in the settings providers prefer most.
“And that’s a fundamental shift, because we’re very, very institutional-based,” Benson said. “Most of our market wants to stay home, so how do we do that?”
2. Turn care settings into community ‘portals’
Senior living communities with multiple care settings can market those settings so that they become sources of new residents, according to Susan Altman, vice president and director of clinical services with Des Moines, Iowa-based Life Care Services (LCS).
“Offering different levels of care within a setting is appealing to both the hospital discharging residents, and to the payer sources,” Altman said. “And not to mention for residents, who can move through those various levels of care with much greater ease.”
But providers must make sure their different care levels can stand toe-to-toe with their freestanding competitors, Benson cautioned. To that end, Rolling Green Village employs community-wide assessments to determine its core clinical strengths, and what might need a little more work.
3. Consider assisted living part of the post-acute landscape
It wasn’t long ago that assisted living communities existed in a separate category from post-acute facilities. But the lines between traditional senior living and post-acute care have blurred, Altman said, meaning providers need to think more about how they can fit within that framework.
“I believe that assisted living is in the post-acute space, and I’ve been saying that for the last three years,” Altman said. “Hospitals are looking at assisted living as a solution.”
To better embrace that synergy, assisted living providers should meet with their local hospitals to explain their levels of care and find out where the health facility’s pain points are, she noted.
“Assisted living … is health care. And while it is more home-like than skilled, it’s also more desirable,” Altman said. “So I am a firm believer that assisted living is in the post-acute space, and will continue to be in that space for many years to come.”
Written by Tim Regan