John O’Connor

As we stagger through this year of carnage and change, the question might seem laughable. Yet this is surely an appropriate time to be asking it: Is long-term care a good business to be in?

“Of course not!” is perhaps the obvious answer.

Margins in this sector are razor thin in the best of times, the naysayers would point out. Staffing is a perennial challenge. And the oversight is off the charts. And those are just some of the field’s pre-existing conditions.

Now operators have the hellion known as COVID-19 to contend with. This (let us hope) once-in-a-century scourge is killing residents by the thousands, decimating revenues, and driving up costs. Plus it is likely to spawn an army of it’s-your-fault lawsuits.

So should we all agree long-term care is not a good field to be in? Well, not so fast. Let’s first examine two relevant realities.

The first is this: Demand for service is ramping up. The 85-plus crowd is one of the fastest growing cohorts in our nation. Moreover, more than 10,000 people turn 65 in this country every day. The Silver Tsunami may have been a bit oversold. But it is very real. And it is going to help keep a lot of beds filled for many years to come.

Then there’s the Kiddie Test: By that, I mean do the children of people in this business often follow the same path? Indeed many do.

Which begs this question: If this sector is so gosh-darn awful, why do so many operators get their children involved?  

Might one answer be that, warts and all, long-term care provides a rewarding career? It might.

Is this a challenging business to be in? You bet.

Is it one to give up on? Many in this field clearly don’t think so.

 John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.