Satisfaction slipping among long-term care residents, but rising among employees during recession

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Lisa Scott Lehman
Lisa Scott Lehman
Many providers are concerned about how the economic downturn has impacted resident, family member and staff satisfaction levels. The natural assumption has been that a poor economy yields low levels of satisfaction.

Not so fast! The feedback varies depending on the topic and the group you are surveying. Holleran's National Satisfaction Databases reveal that indeed satisfaction has declined among residents when asked to rate the community's ability to serve them in the event their funds are depleted. The national average dropped slightly more than two percentage points between 2007 and 2008. The trend is seen across the spectrum, from independent living to skilled nursing.

Additionally, when asked to rate comfort with their financial situation, 74.8% of independent living residents say, "Good" or "Excellent." This is nearly a 5% drop from one year ago. Despite these concerns, overall resident and family member satisfaction levels remain fairly high. The percentage of residents who would select their community all over again is similar to the percentage one year ago and residents remain likely to recommend the community to others.

Interestingly, a different pattern has emerged among employees. Job satisfaction actually inched upward between 2007 and 2008, with this trend continuing thus far into 2009. Statistics also support that the recession has mitigated some of the previous staff retention issues.

The number of staff who indicated they will be working with the same organization three years from now actually increased at the end of 2008. Not surprisingly, a proportion of this growth is among the older working population. Staff who previously envisioned retirement as only one or two years away are now more likely to say that they will continue to be working with the organization three years from now. Not only has retention improved, but satisfaction feedback from employees also shows that in these difficult times, employees are more likely to feel that the organization cares for its employees. These figures increased in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, and the end of year 2008 statistic is above the 2007 rating.

One theory for this slight increase is a recognition among organizations of how important it is to work through these challenges together and maintain high morale. There appears to be a level of transparency in organizations unlike before. If benefits are modified and budgets are tightened, staff members are often aware that it is done in an effort to prevent job cuts and maintain the viability of the organization, all actions focused on the best interests of the staff and residents.

Lisa Lehman is a managing partner at Holleran, an independent research firm specializing in long-term care.

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