A stressed nurse

A new analysis of nursing homes and workforce shortages has brought into sharp focus the heightening need states will have for direct care workers in years close ahead.

The report commissioned by Michigan government officials found the state will need an additional 200,000 nursing home workers by 2026 to match rising demand.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services intended the analysis as a way to quantify the already existing staffing problems faced by facilities in the state. Michigan is already 36,000 direct care workers short of meeting current demands, found the consulting firm Health Management Associates.

It is far from alone in its plight. California, for example, is faced with an even larger shortfall of 275,000 direct care workers by 2026.

Nationwide regulatory and demographic changes will only increase the demand for — and projected shortage of — of skilled nursing facility workers.

Provider group LeadingAge told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News that it expects 7.9 million direct care jobs will need to be filled nationwide by 2030. 

“An aging country will impact all parts of society — including whether older adults and families can access care and support,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, told McKnight’s Thursday. 

The Health Care Association of Michigan has claimed Michigan could lose 4,000 of its approximately 45,000 skilled nursing beds if it didn’t find a way to bolster its workforce numbers.

Dalton Herbel, vice president of public policy for LeadingAge Michigan, told UpLiveNorth that a lack of pay and training opportunities are primary obstacles to attracting workers to the field. 

“There’s a huge lack of individuals who are willing to take care of folks in that kind of direct care capacity,” he said.

A proposed staffing mandate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would put pressure on facilities to increase their staffing in the coming years, but critics point out that the proposed rule doesn’t address the funding or availability problems facilities face.

“Aging services providers are adapting rapidly. But we need expanded community and government support to ensure that tomorrow’s older adults — in all their growing diversity — age equitably with health and safety,” Sloan said. 

The share of the US population aged 65 and older has increased at a historic pace as birth rates decline and better healthcare interventions extend life expectancy. 

The care demands of an aging population also coincide with the threat of increasing regulatory demands. 
In September, HCAM found that more than 70% of Michigan nursing homes could not meet all the requirements of the CMS mandate.