Almost half of leaders at nursing home operators saw occupancy declines over the first month of the coronavirus crisis, according to a new survey, far exceeding the census drops reported in other segments of the senior housing and care continuum.
About 49% of executives reported reduced census at their skilled nursing facilities compared to a month ago, a survey conducted by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) revealed.
That’s compared to 32% for independent living, 29% for assisted living, and 26% for memory care.
But 22% of respondents also indicated that their census had increased over the past month, the highest among the four property types that NIC tracks.
“Roughly half to three-quarters of organizations reporting on their care segment units — across their respective portfolios of properties — saw no change or an increase in occupancy rates from the time they responded to one month prior, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” NIC observed.
The survey included input from owners and C-suite executives at 180 companies that operate senior living and skilled nursing properties, collected between March 24 and March 31; only about a quarter of respondents have holdings in the nursing care space.
At the same time, nursing facilities saw the fastest pace of new move-ins relative to the other settings, with 14% reporting accelerated admissions over the past month — compared to 7% each for memory care and assisted living, and 6% for independent living properties.
Providers across the continuum have grappled with COVID-19, with each setting having its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. Nursing homes, which house the frailest residents with the most severe medical conditions, have been particularly hard hit amid the pandemic, with daily stories of outbreaks and deaths at properties across the country.
But post-acute and long-term care remain essential services that seniors still need to receive despite the risks, while the decision to move into an assisted or independent living property is generally seen as more elective.
For that reason, Helios Healthcare Advisors managing director and co-founder Mario Wilson said investment interest in nursing homes remains strong among investors who are aware of their role in the greater health care ecosystem.
In fact, the very same factors that had long made nursing homes a liability in many investors’ eyes — a reliance on government reimbursements, significant risks associated with caring for patients with profound medical needs — could become key advantages moving forward.
“Nursing homes have the ability to bill Medicare and Medicaid. Savvy lenders and savvy investors are saying: This is a durable asset class,” Wilson said. “As long as we understand it and pick the right operators and the right deals, we should see some success when others are standing on the sidelines.”