John O'Connor, VP, Associate Publisher, Editorial Director

The middle of October is just about here. And it’s pretty clear that change is underway.

The days are getting shorter, the evenings cooler. And billions of newly-colored leaves are shaking loose. Yep, it’s safe to say a new season is upon us.

Which raises an interesting question: Might the same also be said for long-term care?

Let’s hope so. For any way you slice it, the past year and half has left many in this field feeling out in the cold.

To be sure, we are starting to see some promising signs of better days ahead. Skilled nursing occupancy increased to 76.3% in the third quarter. That’s a notable improvement from its pandemic low of 74.1%, according to figures released Thursday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

And it’s not just skilled care that seems to be heating up. For assisted living, occupancy increased to 76.9% (compared to a pandemic low of 75.4%). Meanwhile, independent living jumped to 83.2%, up from 81.8% in the first quarter. Those are certainly encouraging numbers.

But troubling signs remain as well. Let’s face it: Many operators are still struggling to pay the rent and other bills. Hiring is arguably tougher than ever. And there are no guarantees that a complete occupancy rebound is imminent.

We know what Mother Nature will be serving up once this season ends. Wouldn’t it be nice if the long-term care field could go straight to spring?

Don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for things to start heating up.

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

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.