On your first visit to a senior housing community, you were impressed by several friendly and caring staff members. But on your second visit, half of them were nowhere to be seen. What happened? Senior housing caregivers experience a high rate of employee turnover.

This is relatively common in most healthcare professions. But is it something you should be worried about when looking for a senior housing community? And how can you spot a community with a higher retention rate of its senior housing caregivers?

Why Employee Turnover Happens

The field of caregivers and certified registered nurses (CRNs) isn’t a high-paying one, so people switching for better paying jobs or careers is common. Another reason may be because the facility is understaffed.

“We tend to see high turnover rates in skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes, because of burnout,” says Tami Neumann, a certified dementia practitioner and host and founder of the online radio show “Conversations in Care“. “Nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs), the main caregivers, are tasked with taking care of a high number of people.”

Federal regulations under the Nursing Home Reform Act require a registered nurse (RN) to be on duty for eight hours a day, seven days a week. But since there are no federal staffing requirements, some facilities may look to cut costs by not hiring enough employees.

How It Can Affect Residents

A high turnover rate may affect the well-being of residents, although that may also depend on the type of facility.

“Turnover is not as harmful to residents in the assisted living and independent living communities, often because there is less care needed for these residents,” Neumann says. “However, if a resident becomes accustomed to a particular caregiver, there can be an adjustment in getting used to a new caregiver.”

Nursing home and memory care residents can be more affected by high staff turnover rates. Since these residents require continual, close care, it could be jarring or uncomfortable for them to have caregivers coming and going every month.

“Residents in a memory care community often do not have the ability to communicate their needs, and having the same caregivers can be very important because they can observe differences in the resident and make the necessary adjustments to care quicker,” Neumann adds.

If a community has a high turnover rate–more than 50 percent of its staff–then it could be a warning sign.

“It can mean that there is something wrong with the care community,” notes Neumann. “Often the concern is to get someone [an employee] in place, instead of getting the right person in place. It may indicate a problem with the hiring process and the training process.”

Therefore, it is in your loved one’s best interest to pick a community with a moderate or low turnover rate. Here’s how.

How to Pick a Senior Care Community With Low Turnover

    1. Visit the community during morning, day and night. You’ll be able to see firsthand what the staffing levels are at different times and how the care team is caring for the residents without the administrator in the building.

    1. Ask an administrator how many and what kind of caregivers are on duty at any given time and compare that with the total number of residents.

    1. Ask residents if they are familiar with the staff or if there seem to be new people coming and going.

    1. Observe the residents during your tours. Neumann suggests asking these questions: “Do they look well-cared for? Are they all sitting around the nurse’s station with nothing to do? How is the staff interacting with the residents?”

    1. Ask an administrator about their turnover rate. Neumann says communities with high retention rates will be “proud of the fact that they have long-term employees and little turnover, and will gladly tell you this.” However, if an administrator “is hesitant to answer, ask what they have in place to keep quality employees long-term in their facility.”