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Resident Census – An Essential Tool

By November 6, 2021One Comment

Tracking your resident census is an essential activity that will give you ongoing insight into the condition of your business and also help you prepare for your future.

Small business owners and operators of assisted living facilities wear many hats and juggle many balls every day. And with such a busy schedule, it’s easy to let the urgent things on your schedule crowd out the important. That’s what I’ve seen many assisted living owners do when it comes to tracking resident census.

Let’s face it. For many owner-operators, you see your residents every day. You know them by name and might even recall how long they’ve been your resident. So why bother tracking the resident census? What does it do for you? Good questions.

Sure, some assisted living providers have smaller operations with 4 or 10 or even 20 residents in their facility or assisted living home. They might know all the details by memory or know where to find the details written down somewhere.

What about larger assisted living providers? Once you get past 20 and move up to 100 or 200 or more residents across multiple facilities, then you must have a system for tracking all those resident details, right? Not always. I’ve seen far too many that have separate systems for finance, medication management, staffing, and more, but not a good system for tracking resident census.

Large or small, many assisted living providers allow tracking resident census to be a low priority. Until it’s not.

Why Resident Census is Essential

Every business has key metrics that should be tracked to help managers and owners know how things are going. In assisted living, the resident census is or can be the source of several key metrics. These might include:

  • Occupancy and vacancy rates
  • Total daily or monthly revenue
  • Average revenue per resident
  • Average length of stay
  • Resident turnover rate
  • Payor source percentages

Each of these metrics tells a story. It can point to problems or identify opportunities.

Let’s say your occupancy rate has been declining over the year, maybe so slowly that you don’t really even notice. The story that metric is telling might be that you have new competition, your marketing isn’t working, or you have dissatisfied customers. One thing is for certain, a declining occupancy rate is a warning light on the dashboard of your business.

If your average length of stay is decreasing, is it because residents aren’t happy at your assisted living facility? Or are you gradually, without even realizing it, moving toward higher acuity where residents are with you for less time? That may be good, it may be bad, it may be neither but, as a manager, you need to be aware of how these changes over time impact your staffing, your expenses, and your viability as a business in the future.

It’s Not Just About You

Yes, tracking resident census is important for you as the owner and manager of your business. But it’s also important for others outside your business, or it will be someday.

Lenders need financial information to help them make a decision to lend money you need to refinance your current mortgage. While the income statement and other financials will answer many of their questions, a resident census with historical data over time will help validate your financial statements.

One day, you’ll be ready to sell your assisted living facility. That day may be many years from now but, when it comes, historical resident census information will make your assisted living facility stand out. That’s because many assisted living providers that I’ve known are unable to produce that information, which calls into question all the financial information you provide. And that can have a big impact on your sale price!

Where do I start?

That’s the question I’ve heard many times. As an advisor to dozens (maybe hundreds) of owners thinking about selling their assisted living facility, I’ve helped explain the importance of having a resident census. When owners haven’t been tracking their resident census, I’ve reminded them that it’s never too late to start.

And then they ask me “where do I start?”.

That’s the question we’re going to answer next week on the SeniorCareMike blog. So stay tuned for the next post on the topic of your resident census where we’ll dive into the resident census report and the resident census system.

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