Bad Flu Season, But That’s Not The Story

It is a horrific flu season, but it may be unfairly blamed for current seniors housing woes.

So, we have all been hearing about this horrible flu season, especially with the unusual number of children’s deaths, including in my home town. But what I fear is that it will be blamed for more than its fair share of census problems in the senior care market.

Granted, when the worst flu season in nearly a decade hits, it is bound to impact senior care communities, where the residents are much more frail than the population as a whole. But for some reason, this flu season is impacting seniors housing communities, and companies, in very different ways.

Believe it or not, some have seen little to no impact on census, while others apparently are feeling the effects in major ways, both with their residents as well as with their staff. Is it new “flu protocols” that are helping some companies, are they in pockets of low flu incidence, or is something else going on? I am not sure, but I am trying to find out.  

The other problem I have is that the flu season just hit its peak, but apparently some companies had a big fourth quarter negative impact on census, well before the peak and basically during the early part of  the flu season, which was mostly in the second half of the quarter. If it hurt census back then, what are we going to see for the first quarter? Let me know your thoughts.  



4 comments on “Bad Flu Season, But That’s Not The Story

      1. Well said Amber, and as is frequently said, all health care is local. I love the wash, rinse, repeat analogy, because yes, we have heard it all before and it is getting a little boring and self serving. It is a difficult business that takes a lot of marketing and yes, differentiation, at the local level. Thank you for your comments.

  1. When you look at Earnings Summaries for publicly available companies, you see a trend for census decline. In Q4-2016 and Q1-2017, decline was attributed to flu season, death and increased competition. We could copy and paste these reasons (and add weather events) to wrap up the census story for all of 2017, and I expect Q4-2017 will be no different.

    In my view, the industry has become complacent waiting for the good ole days to come back in twelve years. Personally, I don’t think providers really know what’s going on with their census.

    Most providers rely on their regional team to drive their regional business (in some cases alongside of investor analyst) and every market is unique requiring a strategic plan to drive and retain census. The typical regional support position is rarely more than a conduit of information passed between the home office and the local community. If you ask the community why they aren’t selling, their answer is most often “competition” or poor Sales Director. It’s an easy out, easily addressed with a discount or turnover (both buying time for a wash/rinse/repeat). The reality is, in my view, it’s rarely competition in AL/MC but a lack of differentiation and accountability at the community level.

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