Change in long-term care: Nursing homes across U.S. closing

Apr. 19—LIMA — As the world around us continues to grow, so does the aging population. The needs of the generation include healthcare and sometimes nursing homes. According to the American Health Care Association website, more than 1,000 nursing homes have closed in the United States since 2015.

"Nursing homes are closing all over the country," Associate Practitioner Professor from BGSU Jennifer Wagner said. "Hundreds have closed since COVID began. A lot of it is due to not being able to make ends meet."

Recent closings

Locally, one nursing home has closed over the past year including Lima Manor. In the surrounding counties, the Odem at Auglaize and Hardin Hills Health Center are set to close soon.

According to a previous Lima News story, Lima Manor closed in 2022 due to a decline in residents. The Hardin Hills Health Center will soon close its doors due to low resident numbers and cost-prohibitive issues with the building.

"The building was constructed back in the 50s," Hardin County Commissioner Roger Crowe said in a recent article. "It was not built to make it an easy process to remodel and bring up to standards. What brought it all to a head is that we had a quarterly fire system inspection. It was a routine inspection. The results said our fire pump was not reliable, and they would not guarantee that it would operate in the event of a sprinkler being needed."

Staffing issues

According to the Population Reference Bureau website, in 2050 the population older than 65 will increase from 58 million (in 2022) to 82 million in just a few decades. The topic of long-term care will remain in questions. The American Health Care Association also said nursing homes across the United States have closed due to staffing shortages.

"There are not enough people that want to work in long term care," Wagner said. "If you look at the average pay rates for a nursing assistant they are mandated to work overtime — you can only do that for so long before you know your body, mind and spirit says okay, I am tired. Honestly, you can go to Amazon or Walmart and make the same amount of money without half the stress."

Other care options

Nursing homes in the United States date back to the early 1800s according to the Encyclopedia website. The establishment of 'long-term care' is ever-changing. Wagner said as baby boomers begin to age, their wants for end-of-life care evolve.

"When I first started working in long-term care, you saw the 'hospital-like' nursing home," Wagner said. "There were long hallways and bright lights — when you talk to the younger baby boomers now they say, 'I don't want to share a room or share a bathroom with people.' We are expecting a lot more amenities for the amount that we're paying for those services. People are the most vulnerable. Nobody grows up saying 'I am going to live in a nursing home.'"

Older adults now have the option of a home health aide, assisted living facilities and family caregivers.

"I think facilities in the future are going to demand more amenities and we are seeing that now," Wagner said. "Trilogy is one of the up-and-coming companies. They continue to grow, but they have a system in place and they value their employees. They have had some of the best retention and employees (not to say that others have not). In long-term care we might call 'patients' in nursing homes, but we call them residents because that is their home."

Reach Precious Grundy at 567-242-0351.