Question of the Month: Home Health Threatens Traditional Seniors Housing

To what extent does the home healthcare industry pose a threat to the seniors housing sector?

— Lynne Katzmann, founder and president, Juniper Communities

I am an eternal optimist, for better or worse. I also think that challenges present opportunities.

Skilled home care and private duty can augment the work we do in our communities. Given that they have a separate payment source, they offer us the opportunity to augment service without incurring regular cost.

But I think the question may be a different one: does home care threaten our market share? Will consumers choose to stay home with these services rather than come to live with us?

Recent research suggests that the new consumer really seeks community — social connection. Anecdotally, this was supported by a recent discussion with the executive board of the resident council at one of my communities last week. Understanding that I was likely to be on the hot seat, I decided to start the session with introductions that went beyond name. I asked about what they liked about living in our community, what they would say to others thinking about making the move and what are they still passionate about. What I heard surprised even me.

The number one reason they liked being in the community is that it felt like a real community — supportive, personal and with all the privacy of home and convenience of living near services.

But what does staying in your family home with a caregiver really look like? In the best of all possible worlds, the caregiver not only helps you out but becomes a real companion. In my experience (seeing my mother’s friends), that happens only rarely.

The caregiver often does what is asked, but in between, is glued to a phone or other electronic device, continuing to be social with their own community circle. And then, what happens when someone gets sick? Calls off or leaves without notice? Convenience and security are real issues.

Even though, for many, staying in a family home keeps them connected to good old memories, I feel we compete well if given the chance. So, the optimist in me wins out again.