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REITs and Assisted Living Part 2: Abuse, Neglect, and Low Quality Care 

In the first part of our series on REITs and assisted living, we explored the history of the assisted living industry and the recent changes it has undergone, most of which have been for the worse. As REITS and other investors and speculators have bought up senior care facilities across the country, they’ve had a huge impact on the operations and care being provided. 

Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the ways the senior care industry has been impacted by these investors, including the widespread issues of understaffing, neglect, and abuse. 

Staffing Issues In Assisted Living 

The majority of assisted living facilities have struggled to find enough staff over the last few years. A big reason for this is the pay being offered: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for an assisted living aide is $15 an hour.  In most states, you could work at a grocery store or Starbucks and make higher wages than you could in the important role of caring for, medicating, and safeguarding the senior population of the U.S. 

Investor-owned assisted living facilities are some of the worst offenders when it comes to low wages.  Generally, when an investor purchases a senior care home, the first two budget cuts they make are staffing and pay. So not only are staff members being paid less, there are also less staff available to care for the residents. Each employee has to care for more residents while making less money. 

Not surprisingly, the poor pay and tough job conditions have led to high staffing turnover in the senior care industry.  According to a 2022 survey published by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service, as many as 43% of assisted-living workers left their jobs in 2022. 

Additionally, when the pay being offered is low, assisted living jobs don’t attract experienced, well-qualified applicants. In a Washington Post article exploring this topic, one former medical technician at an assisted living facility was quoted as saying, “They will just hire anyone who is willing to learn.”  That holds true across the industry, and has led to assisted living staff members being unqualified, untrained, and unprepared to handle the trials of the job. 

Understaffing is a widespread concern that also leads to caretakers being overworked, among other consequences. In a national survey conducted by the National Center for Assisted Living, a whopping 98% of facilities said they asked staff to work extra shifts because of staffing shortages. 

When there isn’t enough staff, and the employees that are available are undertrained and overworked, cases of neglect and abuse rise. 

Neglect and Abuse in Senior Care  

A resident being locked out overnight in below-freezing temperatures.  A resident’s essential insulin injection being missed. Call buttons going unanswered for hours. Untreated urinary tract infections, bed sores, and broken bones. These are just a few of the cases of abuse and neglect in assisted living that have occurred in investor-owned assisted living facilities. 

A recent Washington Post article looked closely at Balfour Senior Living, which has multiple facilities in Colorado and is owned by Welltower, an investment firm that is the biggest owner of senior care homes in the country. Balfour has had at least 20 reported incidents of neglect since opening their doors in 1997. Most recently, a 97-year-old resident who had been flagged for close monitoring due to confusion, died when she left the facility just past midnight and was locked out overnight in freezing temperatures.  Security footage shows she repeatedly banged on the door by the nurse’s station for at least 30 minutes, but the staff members on duty weren’t there like they were supposed to be.  She was not found until 6:00 the next morning. 

Balfour is just one example of the wider issues across the senior care industry. As investors come in and buy up facilities, they’re willing to put money into aesthetic renovations, but not into the areas that really matter: Pay, adequate staffing, and quality of care for residents. 

Assisted living is supposed to provide better quality of life for aging residents who can no longer independently care for themselves. But all too often, facilities owned by REITs and other investors fail to provide adequate care because they are too focused on profits and paying out dividends. They overfill their homes with residents, understaff them, and don’t enforce adequate training and monitoring to ensure residents are being properly cared for. 

Choosing the Right Memory Care Home or Assisted Living Facility 

With all these issues and concerns in assisted living facilities, you may be worried about your loved ones living in these kinds of senior care homes.  This can be particularly concerning if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia and needs specialized memory care. So what can you do?  

There are questions you can ask and ways you can ensure you are choosing the right home. Senior care that is independently owned and operated is not beholden to stockholders or investors, so they are better able to focus on providing high-quality care instead of maximizing profits. You should ask about ownership, and who is responsible for the operations and procedures in the home. 

You’ll also want to ask about the credentials and experience of the caretakers in the home, as well as how many nurses and other caretakers are present in the home. Plus, you should look for a memory care home or assisted living facility that allows you to visit frequently, so you can see for yourself how your loved one is being cared for. 

The consequences of REITs and other investors purchasing assisted living facilities will continue to play out in the coming years. A focus on profits, staffing and pay cuts, and less of an emphasis on quality care are major concerns. But despite all the concerning issues happening in assisted living facilities across the country, there are still good senior care homes where compassionate, trustworthy professionals provide high-quality care to those who need it. It’s important to evaluate any assisted living or memory care home you are considering before yourself or a loved one moves in.  

Dolan Memory Care Homes are family owned and operated, providing personalized, compassionate memory care to people across the St. Louis metro area. Family members and loved ones are encouraged to visit as often as they’d like, our homes and backyards are secured to prevent wandering, and all homes are staffed 24/7 with a team of caring and experienced Care Partners. Contact us today to learn more about our world-class memory care and the many ways we care for all our residents. 

Sources: 

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311120.htm
https://www.hhcsinc.com/index.html

https://www.ahcancal.org/Pages/default.aspx https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/12/17/assisted-living-industry-real-estate/

Author : John Doe

Author : John Doe

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