Among its many gifts, the pandemic has eviscerated occupancy levels across the seniors housing and care spectrum.

Truth be told, the past two years have been an incredibly challenging time for way too many long-term care operators. And by all accounts, a full recovery appears far from imminent, much less guaranteed. Bleak might not be the best way to describe the current reality, but it’s certainly in the team picture.

At times like these, I’m reminded of a question Peter Drucker often asked clients after hearing their tales of woe:

“So what are you going to do about it?” 

If the most famous management thinker of all time were still alive, he’d probably ask any LTC professional grasping for more residents the same question.

One possible response would be to assume the fetal position and try to think about a happy place. Trust me, the relief from this tactic is temporary at best. Nor does it do much to address the underlying issue.

Some far better approaches were recommended recently at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care’s Spring conference. Panelists backed a multipronged approach that emphasizes better care and outreach.

One such tactic might be to help referral sources like hospitals look better, said Joe Kiernan, chief strategy officer and senior vice president at Lakewood, NJ-based Ocean Healthcare.

“[Hospitals] want to minimize exposure and costs,” he said. “Our goal … is to re-engage our clinical program, and that will add to our market share.”

Ramping up clinical capabilities doesn’t mean a provider has to have post-surgery suites or ventilators, Kiernan added. Ocean provides IV medications for cardiopulmonary, sepsis and stroke patients.

Providers were also encouraged to provide better value to all customers; play to strengths; manage online reviews and create a brand that attracts employees. In the end, the best approach to restoring occupancy will need to be based on your organization’s unique circumstances, motivations and leadership. But act you must.

Which reminds me of something else Drucker often said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”