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What to Look for With Nursing Home Occupancy Issues

Written by NHAbuseGuide on July 30, 2015

What to Look for With Nursing Home Occupancy Issues

Nursing homes are facing an upcoming crisis. If you do an Internet search about nursing home beds you quickly run across one big factor: there is a looming shortage. The increasing life span of many American adults has led to the growing need for quality nursing homes and beds. Currently, there are more than 15,500 nursing homes with more than 1.7 million licensed beds.

According to the National Council on Elder Abuse, “The fastest growing segment of America’s population consists of those 85 and up. In 2010, there were 5.8 million people aged 85 or older. By 2050, it is projected that there will be 19 million people aged 85 or older.” That tells us that those 1.7 million beds will not be adequate to meet the demands. This is why nursing schools are pushing for more and more students and why there is a surge in the number of properties being developed as nursing and long-term care facilities.

What it also tells a senior or someone in search of a nursing home today is that it is important to pay attention to nursing home occupancy issues.

The Issues

Today, we still have adequate numbers of beds, but there are signs of inadequate numbers of staff and healthcare workers. There are also shortages in the numbers of male beds and Medicaid certified beds. So, when you are beginning a search for a nursing home, consider these issues relating to nursing home occupancy:

  • What is the ratio of nurses and healthcare workers to beds/patients?
  • How many beds are in the facility? What is the occupancy rate?
  • How many of them are Medicaid certified?
  • How many of them are available to men?
  • Is the facility for or not-for-profit?

These are important questions and can determine whether or not a facility is suited to your needs. Let’s look first at the ratio of nurses to beds. Right now, there are several groups seeking to change the methods used when staffing hospitals and nursing homes. The standard approach has not normally taken “acuity” into consideration, and nurses as well as healthcare organization want to start doing so.

What this means is that staffing will not be based on bed to nurse ratios. Instead, it will be based on factors like the intensity of patient need, the number of admissions or transfers, and so on. This ensures higher quality of care and does not overwork nurses or CNAs, leading to claims of neglect or abuse.

The total number of beds in a facility is important, especially when you know the overall occupancy rate. For example, the Kaiser Foundation measures total occupancy rates around the country, and in many cases the averages are around 83%. That leaves things very tight, and so you may want to find out if a nursing home you are considering is as “maxed out” as that or has a bit of space.

Of major significance to many people is whether or not the facility has Medicaid certified beds, and if any are available. A site can be certified and yet have a long list of people waiting for one of the fully funded beds. If you are in this category, or your loved one is in need of Medicaid funding, you may find them charged for a private bed until the Medicaid bed is available. You must ask about this.

Also, you may be unable to get a bed if you are male and there are no male beds or rooms left. The current rate of female residency in nursing homes is 80%, so be sure that there is room for you!

If you have challenges with Medicaid benefits but need a nursing home setting, get in touch with an elder law specialist for help with this matter.


KFF.org. Certified Nursing… http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/nursing-facility-occupancy-rates/

NCEA.AOA.gov. Statistics… http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/library/data/#population

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