Senior Housing News recognizes the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic, so we will be updating this bulletin to keep you apprised of the latest developments, focusing on news and information that we identify as especially pertinent to senior living. The team at SHN knows how important your work is right now; we thank you and your teams, and encourage you to reach out to us individually or at email@example.com with news items, topics that you believe are important for coverage, or other feedback.
Bulletin for July 31:
Industry associations ASHA, Argentum, AHCA/NCAL and LeadingAge are assisting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in collecting information for a possible financial relief package for senior living providers.
The groups are encouraging all private-pay assisted living and memory care providers — either standalones or part of CCRCs, members of the organizations or not — to submit information through a private, secure data collection portal by 5 p.m., eastern, on Monday, Aug. 3.
The groups stressed there is no guarantee the government will ultimately distribute funds to the senior living industry, and providers that submit information are not guaranteed to receive assistance. The call for information from senior living providers comes just one week after HHS announced plans to send an additional $5 billion to skilled nursing facilities in the U.S.
Also in the news:
— A new study from The Green House Project and University of North Carolina researcher Sheryl Zimmerman found that 95% of Green House homes reported no cases Covid-19 among residents or staff between February and June. The study lends hard evidence to the fact that Green House homes have had better clinical outcomes than their skilled nursing counterparts.
— New executive survey data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) found that surveyed operators, on average, have tested 18.5% of their independent living residents, 41.7% of their assisted living residents and 45.7% of their memory care residents. The results are based on responses from 52 senior housing and care operators between July 6 and July 19.
— Senior living software firm PointClickCare has partnered with DrFirst to bring the Backline communications platform, which includes telehealth, to long-term care providers across North America.
— Allbridge is teaming up with K4Connect to deliver the senior living software firm’s K4Community solution to senior living operators, and give its customers access to the K4Community Team Hub management tool.
Bulletin for July 23:
A majority of like voters in the 2020 U.S. elections are in favor of federal financial assistance to support senior living providers during Covid-19.
A national survey of likely voters revealed that 80% approve of emergency funds flowing to senior living, according to the findings released Thursday by industry association Argentum. The survey was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates.
The support for senior living financial relief was largely consistent across party lines, with 83% of Republican voters in favor, 81% of Democatic voters in favor and 77% of independent voters in favor.
Nearly 60% of voters disapprove of the fact that senior living communities have not received provider relief funds, and 76% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increased funding.
Furthermore, 71% of survey respondents said they have a favorable opinion of senior living communities, and 48% said they had or have a loved one who resides in senior living.
“These past few months, Covid-19 has significantly impacted the residents and staff of our nation’s senior living communities, with many communities having to scramble to procure supplies and protective equipment and support increasing staffing needs, costs, and operational changes — all without federal funding,” said James Balda, president and CEO of Argentum.
The survey results were released one day after the federal government announced a $5 billion round of funding for nursing homes.
Also in the news:
— Nearly 79% of in-place staff had been tested for Covid-19 as of June 30, with a confirmed positive test rate of 5.2%, according to NIC survey data from 52 senior housing and skilled nursing providers.
— “After seeing the heart wrenching images of nursing home residents desperately trying to connect with their families perched outside their windows during Covid-19 and learning about the many deaths in those facilities, it’s quite likely that there will be a sea change in how and where the oldest Americans will live out their lives once the pandemic subsides,” Next Avenue contributor Bart Astor wrote in “After Covid-19: What Housing For America’s Oldest Could Look Like.”
— Dedicated “Skype rooms,” concierge wings, more compartmentalized layouts and Passive House principles are likely senior living community design trends likely to take hold as a result of Covid-19, according to architects interviewed by Archinect.
— A group of senior living design professionals has founded the Ageless Living Collaborative, dedicated to creating “optimal outcomes” for residents of senior living communities and other types of housing. “The first initiative of ALC is a webinar discussion on isolation, and how we can do better in combating that feeling that is challenging seniors every day, and especially during this time of COVID/post-COVID,” said Phoebe Stein, president of Olive Presents and a founding collaborator.
Bulletin for July 22:
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to send an additional $5 billion to skilled nursing facilities in the U.S.
The funding will go to Medicare-certified long-term care facilities and state veterans’ homes, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Providers could use the money for things like hiring additional staff, increasing testing, and implementing technology that virtually connects residents to their loved ones.
The new $5 billion in relief funds come after other rounds of help for nursing homes authorized under the $2 trillion CARES Act coronavirus stimulus package. Past assistance has included relief based on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and a prior $4.9 billion disbursement that was also dedicated exclusively to skilled nursing facilities.
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) applauded the move, but noted that the latest relief package fell short of the industry organization’s request to add $100 billion to industry relief efforts.
“While this funding is a significant step forward, it is equally important for Congress to provide an additional $100 billion for the HHS Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible to all health care providers impacted by Covid-19,” stated Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “And, that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping both nursing homes and assisted living communities to cover the enormous costs associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus.”
Read more about the new relief package on Skilled Nursing News.
Also in the news:
— The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) has issued a request for proposal for a national study that would focus on the impact of the pandemic on older adults.
The study’s purpose is to analyze how Covid-19 impacts deaths, mental health, mobility and functional impairment among senior housing and skilled nursing residents, and then compare the findings to people of similar age and health in non-senior housing settings.
NIC expects to award the research contract in September, with results as early as next March.
Bulletin for July 20:
Senior housing and care providers in Florida are reporting monthly operating losses in the range of $100,000 a month to as high as $3 million a month, according to a situation report released Monday by LeadingAge Florida.
“Many aging care providers are struggling to keep up, and they’re hurtling towards a fiscal cliff,” said Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida. “The only hope we have of getting ahead of this is repeat, rapid, routine testing. The need is not going down and costs are not coming down, so federal resources are absolutely necessary.”
The provider association sounded the alarm as Covid-19 cases have surged of late in the Sunshine State. Currently, new cases are being reported at a rate of 12,000 a day, compared with about 2,000 new cases per day in June. Over 3% of nursing home and assisted living residents — representing more than 4,500 individuals — have been infected. And, 3.5% of nursing home and assisted living staff have been infected.
There have been 2,343 deaths of long-term care residents and staff in Florida, according to the report.
LeadingAge Florida sent a letter to the state’s U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, urging them to “harness federal resources” to aid the state’s long-term care providers. At the national level, LeadingAge and a group of industry associations sent letters to the White House and Congress, saying they should prioritize support to senior living providers.
“Senior living operators are proud to be playing a critical role in helping to ‘flatten the curve’ and avoid further burdening our nation’s hospitals during this crisis,” the letter states. “However, these extraordinary efforts are leading to significant financial stress, largely due to enhanced infection control measures, acquiring personal protection equipment (PPE) and related supplies, COVID-19 testing, additional staffing and incentives, and loss of revenue associated with halting new residents moving into the communities.”
Leaders with Argentum, LeadingAge, the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) and the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) co-signed the letter. They requested several specific actions, including:
— Increased funding through Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund
— An expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to allow more senior living providers to access these forgivable loans to meet labor-related costs
— Including senior living workers in any proposal to increase essential worker compensation through “hero pay” allocations
The associations also pressed for priority access to PPE, rapid diagnostic and non-diagnostic Covid-19 test, and priority access to a vaccine when one becomes available.
These associations have been pushing federal policymakers for months to increase support to private-pay senior living providers, but such support has been scarce compared to other health care sectors such as nursing homes and hospitals.
Senior living providers are continuing to face “skyrocketing costs” and “disrupted operations,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said in an emailed statement to Senior Housing News.
“Lives and livelihoods are depending on this essential federal support,” he said.
Also in the news:
— With the Covid-19 pandemic casting uncertainty over operations and seizing up the capital markets, the number of publicly announced senior housing and care deals dropped to seven-year low of 59 in Q2 2020, according to data released Monday by Irving Levin Associates. That’s a 50% year-over-year decline. Two large Welltower (NYSE: WELL) transactions accounted for about 60% of the quarter’s spending total of $1.35 billion. Private senior care providers accounted for about 50% of Q2 buyers, with REITs representing 25% and private equity firms making up 14%. About 44% of deal volume was related to skilled nursing transactions.
— Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) touted the efficacy of consistent assignment in helping to manage Covid-19 in memory care settings. “Consistent assignment and the continued development of care partnerships between our associates and residents is the magic that enables us so often to identify early, very subtle symptoms of this horrible virus,” Juliet Holt Klinger, senior director of dementia care and programs, wrote in a blog post. “We are able to notice signs unique to that person that tell us when things may be just a little off, when their eyes reflect a change, when the smile is a little less robust, the handhold a little more weak.”
— Demand for robots to aid with service and cleaning tasks is up in a variety of industries, including senior living, due to Covid-19, Bisnow reported.
— Penn Medicine will receive funding to help long-term care communities in Pennsylvania with Covid-19 readiness and response planning, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported. “Selected facilities will be collectively awarded $175 million and will focus on improving quality and continuity of care, as well as on expanding COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic staff and residents and continuing services in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus,” the article stated.
Bulletin for July 17 – 19
Artis Senior Living has partnered with Johns Hopkins physicians and others to launch the Artis Safety Council, to enhance Covid-19 response and take proactive steps to meet other potential community health issues.
“We are proud of this exciting partnership with a truly world-class organization like Johns Hopkins,” Donald E. Feltman, Artis Senior Living President and CEO, said in a July 16 press release. “Our commitment to our residents, their families and our staff is at the heart of what we do. Their safety today, and always, is a top priority.”
Members of the council include Michele Bellantoni, M.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Morgan Jane Katz, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the independent Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes that will be advising the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and Ravi Passi, M.D., an attending physician in partnership with Artis at Olney Assisted Living in Maryland.
Artis will also be adding staff as safety officers to oversee matters such as staff training across the portfolio and monitoring safety protocols.
As a leader with ManorCare in the 1980s, Feltman worked with Johns Hopkins to pioneer approaches to memory care. Today, Artis operates a portfolio of about 25 communities, focused on memory care, across 11 states.
Also in the news:
— Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based real estate investment trust National Health Investors (NYSE: NHI) collected 96.9% of July rent, with the remaining 3.1% deferred or uncollected, according to a business update issued Friday. The REIT had collected 99.4% of contractual rent in June. The company also issued an occupancy update for its largest senior living operators:
— Minnesota lawmakers introduced a bill to give assisted living residents the right to a speedy administrative law judge appeal starting in August, should they be facing a situation in which they must leave a community due to increasing heatlh needs.
— Syracuse, New York-based senior living development and management company The Hearth has installed Viking Pure cleaning solution generators across its portfolio of 15 communities, in a program called Total Coverage 360. “The generators produce a natural cleaning product called Pure San Solutions, and they are roughly the size of an average office water cooler but have the capability of producing over 100 gallons of disinfectant a day,” according to a press release.
— Vestra Labs, which is contracted to provide Covid-19 testing across Arizona’s 148 Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities, will also be conducting tests in assisted living communities, KJZZ reported. “So we’re currently working with the assisted living facilities to get their staff and residents tested. We are in the discussions about whether or not that can be an ongoing thing,” Dr. Cara Christ, head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KJZZ. Arizona is facing a surge in Covid-19 cases.
— Covid-19 cases have spiked in Florida’s assisted living communities and nursing homes, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “Three weeks ago, there were roughly 1,400 residents of the state’s long-term care facilities who were positive for COVID-19,” the newspaper reported. “By Thursday, that number had reached 3,652. And for senior-care workers, the rise was even steeper — from about 2,500 to 6,368 — the total dramatically eclipsing that of residents.”
Bulletin for Thursday, July 16:
Chicago-based specialty investment bank Ziegler has released some best practices for disclosing information to investors and bondholders during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Providers should be prepared to offer a range of information, such as a timeline of Covid-19 cases that includes a count of the initial positive cases, peak number of cases and number of recoveries for both residents and staff.
Ziegler also recommended that senior living providers give investors and bondholders information on:
- General operations, including unit count and reimbursements
- Marketing adjustments and the pace of move-ins and sales in light of Covid-19
- Local restrictions and information on local Covid-19 outbreaks
- Covid-19 plans, such as reopening strategies, designated Covid-19 units, and policies for positive caes
- Financial information, such as loans or grants, entrance-fee collections and refunds and Covid-19’s impact on expenses and revenue
- The status of construction projects, whether they’ve hit any delays and the projects’ overall feasibility
While the full list of recommendations may look intimidating to some providers, Ziegler says its intent is not to create more work for management teams.
“On the contrary, the hope is that these recommendations will save time for both you and investors by providing data in a public forum before investors need to ask questions,” the investment bank wrote in an update Thursday. “The goal is to cover as many of the key recommendations as possible without placing significant burden on your organization.”
The full document can be viewed here.
Also in the news:
— The occupancy rate for independent and assisted living communities dropped in June — but not as sharply as in April or May, according to a new intra-quarter occupancy report from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).
Occupancy for assisted living communities dropped 3.2 percentage points between March and June. For independent living communities, occupancy fell 2.4 percentage points in that same time frame. But the sharpest decline in occupancy happened in April, with declines lessening each subsequent month, according to the report.
— Fitch Ratings said in a webinar Thursday that Covid-19 outbreaks have remained limited or well-contained within its rated portfolio of life plan communities. The company also noted that turning over vacant units and generating cash flow from entrance fees is still the biggest risk ahead for those communities.
— Senior living provider Grace Management now offers saliva-based Covid-19 testing for future residents at its communities thanks to a new partnership with Clinical Reference Laboratory. The tests results are typically available within 48 to 72 hours, the company said. Grace Management is based in Maple Grove, Minnesota, and is a subsidiary senior living management company of private equity firm Chicago Pacific Founders.
Bulletin for Tuesday, July 14:
Ventas (NYSE: VTR) recently sold a seven-property senior living portfolio for $52 million, dropping the initial $70 million purchase price due to impacts of Covid-19.
That’s according to Austin, Texas-based Kong Capital, which was involved in the deal and issued a press release Tuesday. The transaction previously was announced by Dallas-based MedCore Partners, which worked with Kong and other partners to acquire the portfolio, but the price was not disclosed.
“In January 2020, Kong Capital and MedCore Partners put the off-market portfolio under contract for a $70MM purchase price,” the Kong Capital press released stated. “After receiving 4Q2019 financial statements and seeing a further decline in NOI, the purchase price was renegotiated with Ventas to $52MM.”
Kong is seeing more deals of this type come to market as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Kong Capital Founder and CEO Coe Schlicher said in the release.
The portfolio consists of 593 beds of independent living, assisted living and memory care. The communities are located in Washington State and California; they were previously operated by Senior Services of America, and the Tacoma, Washington-based company will remain the operator.
Also in the news recently:
— Senior living inquiries were 15% higher in June than May, according to new sales and marketing data from Enquire. Move-in averages increased about 32% between May and June, while June move-outs were 20% lower than a year prior, on average.
— Sherpa also recently released new sales and marketing data, showing that new leads increased more than 30% on average in June, compared to March, April and May levels. Time spend on virtual tours decreased slightly, while time spent on in-person tours and home visits ticked up. Other metrics continued to improve from recent months but remained well below 2019 levels; for example, time spent per contact increased in June but was 43% below the 2019 monthly average.
— States should do more to support assisted living communities and nursing homes, given that recent spikes in Covid-19 infections increases the risk of outbreaks in these settings, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) stated in a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA) and state governors. In particular, Covid-19 testing needs to be more rapid; more personal protective equipment is needed; and state public health agencies should work in close conjunction with senior living and care communities that are reopening to visitors, the letter stated.
— A consortium of five nonprofit senior living providers in New York State has worked together to coordinate certain aspects of their Covid-19 response. Details of the Alliance for Senior Care’s response are detailed in WNY Physician Magazine. “What’s best for geriatric care — engagement, involvement — is exactly what’s worst for spread of the virus,” noted Kim Petrone, M.D., medical director of St. Ann’s Community.
— In the two-week period between June 15 and June 26, 79% of assisted living providers in New York state reported having one or more residents leave the community, despite the risks of Covid-19 contraction. That’s according to a survey that the Empire State Association of Assisted Living (ESAAL) did of its 300 member organizations. Of those residents who left the premises, 20% went to a hair salon, 22% went to the home of family or friends, 8% went to a restaurant, and 50% reported going elsewhere, primarily to medical appointments. After continuing advocacy from ESAAL, the New York Department of Health recently began allowing for indoor and outdoor visitation at assisted living communities that meet certain criteria.
Bulletin for July 6, 2020:
Bethesda, Maryland-based Meridian Senior Living has partnered with a testing lab and hired a medical director to support the company’s Covid-19 response efforts and help smooth new admissions.
“Our collaboration with the lab and the appointment of our Medical Director is a vital pivot point in our reopening strategy. We now have the resources and medical expertise to routinely test,” Kacy Kang, president and COO of Meridian Senior Living, said Monday in a press release. “This is an extension of our ongoing commitment to keep our communities as safe as possible, while decreasing the risk of issues that arise from long periods of isolation, both with our residents and seniors in the towns and cities in which we operate.”
Meridian operates more than 75 communities across 21 states.
The new testing partnership should be able to reduce the amount of time that new residents spend in self-isolation, according to the company’s press release. Multiple negative tests could shorten the standard 14-day quarantine period.
Current residents and staff also will be tested more frequently going forward.
Also in the news:
— As of June 30, occupancy in the senior housing operating portfolio of Diversified Healthcare Trust (Nasdaq: DHC) was 77.4%. That marks a decline from 78.2% as of May 31. The Newton, Massachusetts-based real estate investment trust (REIT) primarily works with operator Five Star Senior Living (NYSE: FVE).
DHC also has amended agreements governing a $1 billion unsecured revolving credit facility and $200 million unsecured term loan. Among other conditions, the company will be required to maintain unrestricted cash liquidity of at least $200 million and will be limited a cash dividend of $0.01 per common share per quarter, plus amounts required to maintain REIT status and avoid certain tax payments.
— Touchless doors and water fountains, floor markings in dining areas, and enhancing acoustics to help people hear despite masks are among the recommendations in a new report from The American Institute of Architects, “Strategies for Safer Senior Living Communities.”
— The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the legal guardianship situation in the United States, in which older adults are placed against their will in assisted living or other facilities, The Intercept reported.
To read previous Bulletin entries, click here.