Addressing census: Putting safety first

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Greg Snoddy
Greg Snoddy

Bed Occupancy. It's on the mind of every senior living facility administrative team as the year comes to a close and planning for the upcoming year commences. Census is a challenge for senior living facilities across the nation. Drastic changes to healthcare, the senior living facility development boom, and a declining population have all contributed to creating a nationwide census concern.

An increasingly competitive landscape for senior living facilities

Over the last ten years, pharmaceutical and technological advances have improved senior health and independence. Changes to healthcare payment systems have resulted in less coverage for seniors. Meanwhile, the long-term care options available on the market have increased. Many families and potential residents are considering alternatives to senior living.

Drawing in new residents while experiencing census decline isn't an easy task – so how do you stand out amongst competition?

Establish yourself as the safest choice

It's vital that safety is emphasized as a high priority at your facility. Prospective families need assurance that your facility is equipped with fall prevention programs and systems, emergency response plans, and secured entry. However, if you're looking for ways to stand out in a crowded market, there are a few safety initiatives that can help differentiate your facility.

Market yourself as the safest place for aging loved ones with these strategies:

Build a strong staff identification program

Nothing will help residents and their guests feel safer than knowing exactly who to go to with questions or concerns.  A comprehensive staff identification program considers the roles and uniform needs of each staff member and often includes a color-by-discipline component.  

For example, all nurses in your facility might be dressed in navy blue scrubs while nursing assistants are dressed in light blue. A well-designed staff identification program allows residents to easily tell staff apart from guests. Prospective families will be pleased when they are able to identify the roles of each passing caregiver by the end of the tour.

Share your purchasing philosophy

Be upfront about your protocols and explain how the products your facility uses were specifically chosen to protect your residents. Though it may be tempting to focus on advanced technology, don't underestimate the value of highlighting products residents will use on a daily basis.  

For example, many residents are at-risk for developing pressure ulcers or experiencing skin breakdown due to immobility, even if they are only immobile for as little as 12 hours. When residents and their families understand the care you took in choosing the best linens, pillows, mattresses, or other bedding designed to prevent these issues, they feel more informed. When residents are well-informed, they feel empowered, comfortable, and safe.

Be transparent about how you keep your facility clean

Environmental hygiene is the first line of defense in any infection prevention program, so maintaining a clean environment is an essential component to providing the best care. However, prospective families may express concern about the potentially harmful chemicals cleaning products may have on one's health. Therefore, it has become increasingly important for environmental services to find alternative ways to keep your facility clean while limiting resident chemical exposure. 

Try integrating safe alternatives to common cleaning chemicals; switch to anti-microbial textiles that allow you to meet or exceed CDC standards while limiting the use of harmful substances, or eliminate malodors without polluting indoor air quality.

You work hard to create a safe and comfortable environment for your residents.  By talking about the steps your facility is already taking to keep residents safe, you can stand out amongst your competitors and establish your facility's brand as the safest place for seniors.

Greg Snoddy is the vice president of healthcare sales, senior living, for Encompass Group. He can be reached at

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