Last Updated on November 9, 2023
November is Long-Term Care Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the importance of long-term care (LTC) facilities everywhere. As the leading provider of care for seniors and people with serious conditions, LTC facilities play an essential role in the American healthcare system. So, please join us in marking LTC Month with some tips on how to improve long-term care in your facilities.
What is Long-Term Care Awareness Month?
So, what is LTC Awareness Month, and why does it matter? Every November, National Long-Term Care Awareness Month serves to foster a greater appreciation for LTC services among the American public. It’s also designed to spur action from the lawmakers who control LTC funding. After all, federal dollars do “pay for the majority of nursing home care,” as the AARP has explained.
Why Long-Term Care, and LTC Awareness Month Matters
Almost everyone knows someone connected with long-term care. Even those who don’t work in the industry likely have relatives in an LTC facility, or friends who do. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that more than half of Americans turning 65 this year will need long-term care services and supports (LTCSS) in the future.
That’s because, as those in the industry know, LTC and LTCSS go far beyond nursing homes to include many other types of facilities and services. Assisted and independent living facilities, senior care communities, in-home custodial care, adult day care centers, and even hospice and palliative care providers all fall under the banner of long-term care.
Additionally, many of these facilities don’t just help care for the daily activities of life for their residents. They also provide medical care like intensive nursing services and short-term post-acute care (PAC). They also offer physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
That’s a big job, requiring a lot of clinical expertise. And it should come as little surprise that many facilities struggle to find the workers they need to fulfill it. For that reason alone, it’s important for LTC leaders to actively work on how to improve long-term care in their facilities, and raise awareness of those efforts. And we’ve got a few good ways to do just that.
>Related: The Biggest Challenges of Long-Term Care
How to Improve Long-Term Care for LTC Awareness Month
#1: Create a Better Environment for Residents
When it comes to the question of how to improve long-term care, the first thoughts of LTC facility leaders should involve the residents under their care. And since 1987’s Nursing Home Reform Act, they have a clear set of guidelines for doing just that. Winning support from the public (and lawmakers) requires following those rules. It’s also necessary for receiving funding and stay in business.
Yet those same rules also offer the chance to put residents front and center in a proactive way. To that end, the resident “bill of rights” introduced by the Reform Act offers an excellent guide. The specifics vary depending on each state, but the basics are always the same — ensuring that residents are protected from abuse, neglect, unnecessary restraint and discrimination, for instance, and that they live with dignity and freedom of movement and communication.
“Many different elements can impact the quality of care,” writes William Avi Rothner. “However, the ultimate goal should always be to prioritize your residents’ satisfaction. At the end the day, the happiness of your residents will be the true indicator of success.”
#2: Revisit CMS Quality Metrics
Another good reason to prioritize resident well-being is that it’s required for Medicare and Medicaid certification and reimbursement. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) maintains a set of Nursing Home Quality Initiative (NHQI) quality measures (QMs) outlining those rules, called the Minimum Data Set (MDS). You can find the latest edition here.
Designed to capture both resident “quality of life and quality of care,” the MDS list of metrics is long and detailed. It includes metrics for both long-stay and short-stay residents. Some examples include:
- Number of hospitalizations or outpatient ER per 1,000 resident days
- Percentage of residents with pressure ulcers, or who received experienced one or more falls with major injury
- Percentage of residents whose need for help with daily activities has increased
- Percentage of residents who have lost “too much” weight, or who have symptoms of depression
Of course, leaders of LTC facilities are well aware of these requirements. After all, each facility must have an MDS coordinate tasked with reporting their adherence to those metrics. Yet with the current labor shortage, it isn’t always easy to find workers with those skill sets. And given how often CMS updates the MDS metrics, that can be a real challenge.
For instance, a new version went into effect of as of October 1, 2023. With these changes, CMS has expanded the “Functional Status” metrics to include “Functional Abilities and Goals.” This includes quality measures around how many residents made functional improvements and whose ability to move independently has gotten worse, to name a few. You can get more details on the updated measures here.
#3: Celebrate & Support Workers
Any care from any facility is only as good as the workers who provide it. And LTC providers struggling with turnover face even greater challenges for maintain care. When it comes to the question of how to improve long-term care, then, leaders should focus on keeping staff happy in their jobs.
But how can providers boost retention and job satisfaction among workers at a time when turnover is higher than ever? Offering higher rates of pay always helps. But those without the budget to do so have other options, including:
- Creating a more positive and supportive culture
- Offer a more consistent schedule
- Using contingency staffing to cut down on overtime and give workers more time off
- Providing more chances for staff members to learn new skills and develop their careers
- Building team spirit by offering mentorship and coaching programs
> Don’t miss our guide to building a better culture in your healthcare workplace
#4: Improve Hiring
Leaders wondering how to improve long-term care and combat turnover at the same time have another option available. By working to improve hiring best practices, facilities can provide higher-quality care, closer attention to residents, and help give workers the support they need to stay happy and satisfied in their jobs.
Improving processes for screening and interviewing offers a big reward with a relatively small financial investment. And LTC organizations can get an assist in this important step with the help of a proven workforce management strategist. Partnering with a nationwide staffing company can also ensure that each candidate is fully screened, vetted, and qualified to provide the best possible resident care.
> Learn more about the benefits of partnering with a staffing and recruitment provider
#5: Join in the LTC Awareness Month Campaign
Finally, LTC providers wondering how to improve long-term care can help spread the word about its importance! Some ways to do this include:
- Engaging with the community by sponsoring events
- Cross-promoting LTC Awareness Month with other healthcare providers, such as local hospitals or clinics
- Reaching out to local lawmakers to encourage them to speak publicly on the topic and support expanded funding
- Using social media to help spread awareness
Get Help Improving Long-Term Care with CareerStaff Unlimited
If you’re looking for help in the goal of how to improve long-term care, you’ve come to the right place! At CareerStaff, we specialize in helping healthcare employers navigate today’s workforce challenges with award-winning, Joint Commission-Certified services. You can learn more about our solutions here, or get started by requesting contingency staff now.