Life as a nursing home operator in the United States can sometimes be a masochistic undertaking.

Ostensibly, you’re in it to take care of some of the nation’s most frail and vulnerable citizens. As surveys such as McKnight’s Mood of the Market continually show, you are proud of doing meaningful work.

Yet as the cost of healthcare has skyrocketed, you’re largely tethered by federal payments that cannot keep pace with things like public health disasters and soaring inflation. (To give just two current examples.)

On top of that, you’re easy prey for finger pointing at almost every turn. The White House’s announcement of expansive reform wishes in February is a perfect example. Despite reporting to work in the densest locations for COVID-19 infections and deaths from the early days of the pandemic onward, you again had federal officials earlier this year light the fuse for critics who want to blame the carnage on you.

But as the sector’s top figure pointed out Thursday, there are reasons for hope. In short, the calvary will soon be here. “Soon” if you count in units of 12 months at a time.

By 2025, possibly 2024, census levels will not only match pre-pandemic heights, but they also should soar beyond, believes Mark Parkinson. Putting heads in beds, let us remind, is the name of the game. So this is very good news.

But first there are a few key things to get through. Like 2022 and 2023.

That doesn’t happen without a lot more employees walking the halls of the nation’s long-term care facilities. So despite the good news Parkinson projects, he also acknowledges there are some rough patches to get through.

The best thing providers have going for them is themselves. Anybody who has survived the conditions of the last two-and-a-half years, has the mettle that will be needed to make it two more.

The demographic wave Parkinson, and every long-term care provider, so hopefully anticipates is undeniable. Its light will not be diluted or diverted. And it gets closer to taking its full, shining effect with every sunset and sunrise.

So let the sun shine — at the end of your pandemic tunnel, and all day, every day on the communities you serve.

James M. Berklan is McKnight’s Executive Editor.Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.