Executives in senior housing are well aware of the problem of resident turnover. With a current occupancy rate of 86.5 percent, a 21- to 29-month average length of stay in assisted living, and a median annual resident turnover of 46.8 percent, senior living communities have increasingly focused on marketing and successful move-ins.
Yet, acquiring new customers can cost as much as five to seven times more than retaining existing customers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In short, a resident who stays, and stays for a longer time, is more important than a new move-in. Why? In addition to the financial loss from every vacancy, there is the acquisition cost of each new resident. For those families considering a loved one’s move, high occupancy rates and longer resident length of stay have become key indicators of excellence in providing a higher quality of care and life.
Here are three ways communities can rise above the statistics by reducing avoidable resident exits:
Residents stay longer when they bond with the staff and other residents.
Key to bonding is genuine relationships with the staff. Both residents and their families value friendliness, from front-line aides to executive directors. They also want stability. Andrea Swayne, COO of Guardian Angels Senior Services in Elk River, MN, believes that communities can prevent high turnover by building staff excellence in the “big three: care, concern, and communication. “Ensure that your team members engage and understand your core values, whether they are housekeepers, nurses, dietary personnel, activity staff, marketing, or maintenance. The better a team communicates, the higher the level of engagement and satisfaction. Job dissatisfaction plus high turnover are the number one way to drive away residents. Residents also need to connect with each other and avoid isolation. Communities can foster socialization through engaging activities, varied entertainment, lifelong learning opportunities, welcome committees, residents’ councils, flexible dining room seating, and indoor/outdoor common areas.
Residents stay longer when they are active and healthy.
Physical activity positively affects fall prevention and overall wellbeing. Every community should have a variety of fitness programs, from aerobics, stretching, and strength training to safe exercises for frailer residents. In addition to direct and outside medical care, technology can enhance resident health. One example is telemedicine connected to local doctors. New systems using machine learning and predictive analytics, like CarePredict, detect changes in resident ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and can alert nurses to emerging health problems, preventing potentially serious conditions and falls that shorten resident stays.
Residents stay longer when their surroundings are homelike.
For residents, the community is home and they want to be comfortable there. Over 90 percent of residents in a recent poll felt that the residence’s comfort, ambiance, and cleanliness were vital. Not surprisingly, 85 percent stated that food quality and dining were important. Details matter both in common areas and in their apartments. Preferred designs included elements such as abundant natural light, décor that is both attractive and accommodating of physical limitations, comfortable seating, high-contrast colors, and non-slip floors. Residents also wanted to personalize apartments with their own possessions and things they love. According to Swayne, “Our residents and family members are more attuned to their surroundings than what we think.