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Connecticut Nursing Home Occupancy Rates Falling

August 21, 2013

An August 11 article by the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT) reports that nursing home occupancy rates have been falling in Connecticut over the last decade in all but two counties.

Nearly a third of nursing homes in Connecticut have less than 90 percent occupancy rates today, compared to rates of 93.3 percent in 2003, according to the investigative team’s article, “Thousands of Connecticut Nursing Home Beds Empty as State Rebalances Care.”

Of the 68 nursing homes that had lower-than-average occupancy rates, 20 had occupancy rates of just 60 to 80 percent. At least 2,450 beds were reported to be vacant in the state as of May 2013.

Reasons cited to explain why nursing home occupancy rates were falling include state and federal initiatives — such as the Money Follows the Person Program — that make it possible for elders and people with disabilities to live in home and community settings. The increase of assisted living facilities, which are “loosely regulated in Connecticut,” was also reported to be a cause of the falling occupancy rates.

Whether the facility has a high- or low-quality rating from the federal government has no correlation with vacancy rates, the journalists report.

Keith Brown, a Simsbury nursing home administrator whose facility had a vacancy rate of 23 percent and high quality ratings, explained that, “With the increase in home care, we’re seeing a more frail resident population. So we have fewer residents, with higher acuity.”

A November 2012 report by Mercer Inc. projects that Connecticut will face challenges in “rebalancing its long-term care system and ensuring that nursing home beds are available where they are needed in the coming years,” reports C-HIT. While most regions will have an excess of nursing home beds in coming years,” Mercer anticipated that some communities may have “deficits” in beds.

There are 230 licensed nursing homes in Connecticut. State plans anticipate a reduction of “7,000 to 9,000 of the remaining 26,300 licensed nursing home beds by 2025,” according to the article.

Continued Need for Skilled Nursing Care

The trend of falling occupancy rates will end as the population ages and the “silver tsunami” hits, predicts Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities.

“There will very likely continue to be a strong need for high-quality skilled nursing homes,” Barrett told C-HIT. He advises state policy makers to “proceed carefully and cautiously when allocating resources” because many will still need high-quality skilled nursing care.

— by Deane Beebe

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