Senior Living Staffing Shortages Getting Less Severe, Labor Remains Top Concern

Staffing shortages may be getting less severe across the industry, according to a new survey of senior living industry executives. But workforce challenges have not fully abated, either.

The survey, which the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care released Thursday, showed that 19% of executives had reported severe staffing shortages between April 4 to May 1; compared with 27% who said the same in a previous NIC survey conducted between March 7 and April 3.

But while they may be getting less acute, staffing headwinds have not let up, either. Although fewer operators who responded to the survey reported severe shortages, nearly three quarters of them (73%) reported seeing moderate staffing shortages during that period, compared with 67% who said the same in the previous survey.


Greater than one quarter of respondents said more than 20% of their community positions are still unfilled, while a half of respondents reported between 11% and 20% of their community positions are still unfilled. And 89% still see attracting community workers and caregivers to be one of the greatest challenges they face today.

The most recent survey included responses from executives and owners of 65 senior housing and skilled nursing operators across the nation.

As for what senior living operators are doing to attract staff, most (70%) still rely on increasing wages, with another 9% setting more flexible schedules and 6% doing outreach with students.


Other operators have implemented same-day pay, flexible scheduling, and other methods to attract and retain workers.

“If the only way to attract [workers] consistently is to increase wages, it’s really going to put more pressure on NOI at a time when [operators] are trying to grow occupancy rates,” NIC Senior Principal Lana Peck told Senior Housing News. 

Other challenges included operating expenses, with 80% of respondents identifying it as a top challenge for this year.

On the occupancy front, 51% of respondents said they expect full occupancy recovery to occur in 2023, with the majority expecting it to happen in the first half of 2023.

That is a notable difference from last fall, when 73% of the surveyed executives said they thought occupancy would bounce back to pre-Covid levels at some point this year. Now, only 44% said the same in the latest survey.

A little more than half of the surveyed executives (52%) said lead volumes were above pre-pandemic levels in April, which Peck said is a notable increase compared with a similar executive survey in February when only 33% said the same thing.

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