North Carolina Certificate of Needs laws (CON) result in strict limitations relating to the number of beds that can be offered to the geriatric population, which prevents caregivers from being able to offer quality care to the aging population.

According to the Administration on Aging, in 2030 there will be 72 million Americans over the age of 65. The citizens and politicians of North Carolina need to recognize that we do not have an adequate number of elder care facilities to meet the future needs of our state and are preventing the implementation of a truly remarkable option for the aging population.

Older adults have intricate medical challenges and require specialized care to allow them to live their life to the fullest. The current industry-wide staffing shortages and hiring challenges have decreased the level of confidence and trust previously afforded to larger care facilities. Every unnecessary fall, broken bone, urinary tract infection, and death of a loved one compounds the fear felt when a family member places a frail senior into a long-term care facility. As the population ages, North Carolinians are left with limited care options for their loved ones. 

North Carolina has an insufficient number of assisted living, skilled nursing, and nursing homes providing care to geriatric patients. Most of these facilities are understaffed with a patient nurse ratio of 1 to 20 and a caregiver ratio of 1 to 10, and sometimes even higher.  Higher patient ratios are leaving caregivers burned out, undervalued, and forced to provide substandard care to your loved ones.  

A potential solution, blocked

One proposed solution for the long-term care staffing crisis is to provide the elderly population with an option to age within a residential assisted living home. This type of living situation places the patient in a small community setting with 10-15 other individuals. 

The staffing model provides one caregiver to 4 to 5 patients, depending on the levels of care required. This model goes back to the root of patient-centered care and allows the residents to thrive in a family-like atmosphere while also providing a extremely competitive wages to the caregivers. This not only serves the patients but also improves the local economy. 

Professionals who want to develop this model of care need to obtain a certificate through the Department of Health and Human Services, a zoning certificate through the city or county, and be credentialed to provide high-quality care patients of this age deserve. 

Next, a certificate of need (CON) for more than seven beds has to be applied for and approved. Obtaining a CON is cumbersome, expensive, and the outcome is not guaranteed, which is having the effect of preventing qualified providers from establishing patient-centered care homes where older adults can receive specialized, high-quality medical care.

The long-term care staffing shortage demands attention from the North Carolina legislature, and we should eliminate the unnecessarily burdensome CON requirement for long-term care residential homes. As long as the current CON hurdles remain in place, North Carolina will be unable to meet the care needs of our elderly family members, and our residents will be denied an exceptional option for their long-term care needs. 

Article written by Michelle Kim.