This is the second post in a series on your resident census.
For many assisted living providers, this topic is old news and they can move on to the next topic. But I’ve met too many assisted living owner-operators who don’t track resident census on a regular basis. And it’s not just newer or smaller operators but also experienced operators with larger facilities, and they’re often impacted most when a resident census system isn’t part of their business.
In the last post, we talked about the resident census as an essential tool in your assisted living business. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into the resident census report and how you can use it to be a better manager. In the next post, we’ll look at a simple system to track your resident census.
What Is A Resident Census
First, let’s try to define ‘resident census’. It’s a term that many of us in assisted living use all the time but it can mean different things to different people, and some who are newer to assisted living might not use that term at all.
If you’re new to assisted living, you’re probably more familiar with a ‘rent roll’. A resident census and rent roll have much in common. In fact, some will use the terms interchangeably. But there are some differences.
A rent roll is often associated with apartment complexes or commercial real estate. It might be defined as a document that lists the occupancy status of units in a property and the details related to each occupant at a point in time or over a period of time.
A resident census for an assisted living facility is a rent roll but it’s more. Or it’s normally more. There are a few reasons.
Assisted living facilities, like many health care or other service properties (think hotel), don’t always have monthly rental agreements or annual leases like other properties have. Yes, residents may have a multi-year length of stay in your assisted living home or facility and they might pay monthly. But sometimes assisted living facilities charge residents a daily rate paid monthly, rather than a fixed monthly amount. And sometimes a resident might leave your facility mid-month so they’re only charged for days with you, rather than paying for the full month.
Another reason that a resident census is more than a rent roll is because of the many ways some use the report to manage their business. The census report may also help track important resident information, such as demographic data, service details, scheduled updates or changes, payor details, and more.
So the resident census report is typically more than a rent-roll. It’s more than a look back at your occupancy rates. It should be a tool to help you plan and manage your assisted living facility.
What To Include In Your Resident Census
You can buy software that will help you track your resident census. The software will produce a long list of reports to give you the information you need. In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about some of that software and other systems for tracking census.
Some of you will use the do-it-yourself method of tracking resident census. Many of you use a simple spreadsheet like Excel or Google Sheets to track resident census and produce the reports. That’s what we will describe in this post – a spreadsheet-based system for tracking resident census.
If you know spreadsheets, you know they have rows and columns. Each row of your spreadsheet will be filled with information about each unit and resident in your facility. The information you put into each column of a row is up to you and depends on your unique situation.
Here is a list of information you may want to track in columns of your spreadsheet, grouped from the basic and essential to the more advanced and optional.
These items will allow you to create the most basic resident census report. Still, it will provide you with information that can be very helpful to assisted living owners, either day to day, month to month, or when it’s time to sell or refinance. These few details tracked consistently in your resident census, will allow you to monitor metrics such as occupancy/vacancy rate, total monthly revenue, average resident fee, the average length of stay, and resident turnover.
- Unit. Resident units in most assisted living facilities, like an apartment building, have a unit number.
- Resident name. Enough said. Although some may want to note that privacy issues may come into play if the census is used outside your own use. Look into this to make sure you’re in compliance.
- Admission date. Resident turnover is an important measure. How many residents were admitted last month? Last quarter? Last year? Is turnover increasing?
- Discharge date. What is the average length of stay?
- Monthly rate. What are the monthly charges for each resident? One of the most essential functions of the resident census is to find how much total revenue you should expect each month.
If you want to track some more details, you can turn your resident census into more of a management tool and deeper set of metrics.
- Payor source. Many assisted living facilities prefer to have more private pay residents. Tracking the payor source of your residents will help you find your percentage of private pay residents and track it over time.
- Second occupant. Some resident units are designed for or can accomodate two residents. For an accurate occupancy rate, it’s helpful to know if a resident is one of two in the same unit.
- Daily or monthly rate. Sometimes residents (especially those with a public funding source) pay a daily rate, rather than a monthly rate. Knowing daily vs monthly rates can help calcualte total revenue for 28 vs 30 vs 31 day months.
- Revenue by type. How do you charge residents? Is it mostly all-inclusive? Or do you charge a base fee plus level of care plus a utility fee plus a pet fee, etc? Break it down by type to find new or lost opportunities.
- Current month’s revenue. The revenue you bill a resident for any particular month might be different than normal because they’re gone some days, a discount was offered, or whatever. It’s helpful to reconcile your census to your financials so noting actual revenue for the month allows you to do that, and explain any differences.
- Days occupied. Tracking census as a point in time is one thing. Tracking it for a month is another. Mid-month admissions and discharges mean that a unit might not be occupied for the full month so noting how many days a unit is occupied helps fine tune occupancy rates.
Finally, some assisted living owners will use their resident census in even more ways to manage things.
- Unit rate. Even if a unit is vacant, it can be helpful to track the normal unit rate so that you can find the gross potential income, an important measure in most properties.
- Level of care. Do you use a point scale or other measure of a resident’s level of care? It can be helpful to note that in the resident census and track the facility’s overall level of care over time.
- Future activity date. A resident might have some event or activity to track, such as when they are due for an annual rate adjustment. Track it in the census.
The resident census report looks different for each assisted living operator. Sure, there are industry reporting standards that you may see produced by some of the common software systems or by the major industry players. But small business assisted living owner-operators (my audience), have their own way of doing things so their reporting comes in many forms.
While you’ll want to set up a resident census report that works for you and your business, make sure to incorporate the basics, consider the helpful, and think about some of the extras that may help you manage your business better.
In the next post, we’ll talk about a resident census system to help you keep it simple and effective.