The number of nursing home workers has decreased during the pandemic and has not yet recovered

nursing homes It is struggling to regain its footing in the long shadow of the COVID-19 crisis, with employment numbers falling sharply from pre-pandemic levels, data shows.

a Report Published Wednesday by the American Healthcare Association and the National Center for Living Assistance (ACHA/NCAL) shows that nursing homes lost 220,000 jobs from March 2020 through October 2021, equaling a 14% decrease.

Communities assisted living communities have also seen job losses, with employment shrinking by 38,000 over the same period, or 8%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The numbers stand in sharp contrast to employment numbers in other areas of health care, many of which have reached or even exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Outpatient care centers, home health care, doctors’ offices, and hospitals have mostly recovered or even added jobs.

Elderly care homes face double crises. At the same time, extremely difficult working conditions and low wages are pushing workers out of the industry, and occupancy rates are declining, weakening revenue facilities they might otherwise use to lure workers back.

AARP October Report Detailed reasons For the growing number of empty beds, blame is placed on both long-term trends as well as newer and more serious factors.

Since the 1970s, more and more seniors have chosen to age in place, a choice enabled by growth in industries such as home delivery meal programs and personal care services that make that choice possible. This is partly responsible for a 13% drop in occupancy over the decades, from 93% in the 1970s to 80% in June 2019.

A medical worker poses for a photo with signs saying “Heroes Work Here” outside the FutureCare Lochearn Advanced Nursing Center in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 17, 2020.

As the pandemic unfolds, there are more serious elements at play, not the least of which is COVID itself: estimated at 150,000 Residents of the nursing home have died from the disease so far.

The loss of residents is exacerbated by the suspension of access to some facilities for safety reasons, which leads to a further decline in occupancy. Meanwhile, some hospitals have canceled elective surgeries, cutting off the lucrative pipeline for patients who often stay in a long-term care facility while they rehab from surgery.

“The way nursing homes have been able to weather a wave of bankruptcy over several decades… is to absorb more and more high-paying short-term patients from Medicare,” said Jon Gruber, an economist at MIT. Director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, For Boston Public Radio last spring.

“The problem is that these patients have left all of a sudden, because no knee surgeries have been done. Nobody is doing those surgeries where they have to recover in a nursing home.”

But even with the number of patients declining, Gruber told HuffPost at the industry level, the amount of work that needs to be done still far exceeds the staff available to do it. The more troubling question, he said, is whether these employees are slow to return to the industry – or if they abandon the sector permanently.

If they don’t, the elderly will pay the price.

“There is a large body of evidence that more staff leads to better outcomes for older adults,” Gruber said. “The main answer is clear: Increase wages for these incredibly challenging jobs.”

“In short, I think we need to find a way to make jobs more attractive – particularly by creating career ladders for long-term care workers so they don’t become dead-end jobs,” he said.

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