Assisted Living Staff to Resident Ratio for Effective Operations

Operations
Senior Living
Published on:
February 1, 2024
Read Time:
13
min

Assisted living facility residents need proper support to complete daily tasks and live a dignified life. This includes getting dressed, bathing, feeding themselves, and other daily activities.

For these tasks to be completed successfully, enough staff is required to ensure the well-being of the residents and the smooth running of the senior living facility

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Just how many assisted living staff should there be for every resident? Does the number of residents affect the number of administrative, cleaning, and maintenance staff? Is there a range that is deemed practical and safe for the residents and elders of an assisted living facility?

One of the most important factors to give the best care to your residents is to ensure that the correct assisted living staffing ratio is maintained.

​​In this post, we’ll discuss why staffing levels matter so much in assisted living and how you can ensure that your facility has adequate levels of staffing at all times.

To continue your learning, check out our comprehensive Senior Living Operations Management Guide.

What is an Assisted Living staffing ratio?

In the assisted living industry, the staffing ratio refers to the number of residents that are assigned to each staff member. The staffing ratio is important because it allows the facility to meet its residents’ needs and keep them safe. 

There are many departments in an assisted living facility.

There are workers to ensure maintenance of the facility and the staff who take care of the residents. These two job roles are not interchangeable and the staff-to-resident ratio indicates the manpower allocated to specifically take care of the residents instead of the facility.

The right balance of staff to residents is essential for effective operations, so knowing how many full-time staff members you need per resident can help you maintain a positive reputation among your clients. (Grab your free checklist on mastering reputation management for your ALF here.)

Why minimum staffing levels are important for Assisted Living?

The first thing to understand is that minimum staffing levels are not required by law, but are recommended by federal agencies and associations. They ensure that assisted living facilities meet certain standards in their level of care. Minimum staffing levels can vary across different types of facilities, but they should always be high enough so that residents receive the appropriate level of attention and assistance.

Support Seniors With ADLs

Assisted living staff members must be able to assist with tasks like bathing, dressing and feeding, which are known as activities of daily living (ADLs). Without adequate staffing levels, it would be impossible to provide this type of assistance. In fact, one study found that higher staff-to-resident ratios reduced the incidence of falls among residents who needed assistance with ADLs.

This is because there were more workers available to assist people when needed instead of having them wait until an employee had time for them.

Maintain quality of care through activities and an engaged, restorative environment

The assisted living staffing ratio also helps keep residents engaged in their surroundings. A high staff-to-resident ratio can help prevent a domino effect of disengagement, which can lead to poor health outcomes and increased levels of stress for both residents and staff members.

When there are fewer staff members on duty, there’ll be less time spent engaging with each resident during the day. This can lead to a lack of stimulation for many older adults in assisted living facilities, which can result in feelings of isolation and depression.

The lack of engagement can also cause mobility issues among older adults who may otherwise be able to move around independently. 

Minimize accidents and response time to emergencies

The main reason why the minimum assisted living staffing ratio matters so much for assisted living is that it helps minimize accidents involving residents, staff members, and visitors. A higher nurse-to-resident ratio allows for more consistent monitoring of residents' conditions and activities throughout the day. More caregivers mean a swift response time and decreased risk of accidents. 

What should be the minimum Assisted Living Staffing Ratio for my property?

The answer depends on where you are located, what kind of care you are offering and other factors. There are no universal standards for staffing ratios, but most experts agree that a one-to-four ratio (one caregiver for every four residents) is a good start.

However, as you add more services and increase the level of care your residents need, it is possible that you will need more than one staff member per four residents.

In order to determine the assisted living staffing ratio for your property, consider how many assisted living residents you will have each day and then how many hours they will require assistance with daily activities such as dressing and bathing.

You may also want to consider how much assistance your staff members will provide during meals and whether they will be available to help with medications throughout the day or at mealtimes.

An Assisted Living Facility helps residents that require minimal assistance and not the residents that need extensive nursing care.

This allows the facilities to budget for less number of direct care workers. The number of direct care staff per ten residents is lesser in an ALF than in a nursing home. The turnaround time or response time for every resident call is maintained at 20 to 25 minutes in a normal ALF. 

For example, if one staff is employed for every ten residents in the facility, the budget for one staff is on an average 11 USD per hour. The nursing care providers are paid at 20 USD per hour according to the normal pay scale levels across the country.

Other important factors for setting your staffing ratio

Apart from the experiences and budget, there are three other factors you must consider while setting your staffing ratio.

Attrition/Turnover Rate

Working as a direct care provider takes a lot of effort and it is emotionally draining for the workers. When there are a lot of residents depending on one caretaker it is difficult to tend to many needs of the residents.

The lower staff to resident ratio is not only draining for the workers but is also a setback for the residents. The turnover of the direct-care workers is especially high due to many factors like low wages, low staffing ratio, the higher number of beds, less rewarding work, negligible amount of benefits, etc.

Vacations and sick days

Although there are 4.6 million direct care workers in the US, the industry is not streamlined. The benefits for the employees are limited. The direct care workers do not get paid holidays or vacations. The sick leave allocation is also highly variable and is based on the facility they work for. 

Certified nursing assistants and other medical health care workers have allocated paid leave and sick leave allocations. These categories of workers fall under organized work groups whereas the direct care workers are not subject to organized sectors’ benefits.

Under Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act [EPSLA], every full-time employee is entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave. This is irrespective of the COVID situation prevailing in the country.  

Wage Inflation

The federal minimum wage of 7.25 USD per hour has been increased to 15 USD per hour for direct care workers by the 2021 Raise The Wage act. This increase has been long-awaited by the workforce who help the residents of the elderly care facilities lead a dignified and independent life. 

How to monitor the effects of different staffing levels in an Assisted Living Facility?

While it is important to have enough staff on hand at all times, it is also important to know how many employees you need per resident based on the age and needs of each individual. This will help ensure that your facility has enough employees for each resident during busy times and fewer during slow times. It will also ensure that you don't over-hire or under-hire during these times. 

There are several ways you can optimize your assisted living staffing ratio:

Task Management Tools

A task management tool can help you know how long each task takes. You can then take a calculated decision to know to increase or decrease your staff levels.

More powerful tools like Xenia can even help you assign and track the progress of a task through its various stages and stakeholders. You’ll ensure prompt completion and your staff will also be aware of the things to do.

Centralized communication

Assisted living facilities are often large facilities with hundreds of residents, so keeping everyone in the loop can be a challenge.

You could use traditional methods like email and phone calls, but that's time-consuming and inefficient. It also doesn't allow for real-time communication or collaboration, which can be critical when something goes wrong or if you need help from another department.

Instead, consider using an all-in-one communication tool like Xenia that allows all staff members access to one centralized communication system where they can ask questions and respond to issues as they arise.

This will save time and improve productivity across the board at your assisted living facility.

Resident Satisfaction Surveys

In order to effectively monitor your assisted living staffing ratio it’s important to understand how this impacts resident satisfaction. It can affect your business as well as your reputation with both current and future customers. 

When it comes to assisted living facilities, resident satisfaction surveys can be a valuable tool in helping to identify areas that need improvement. Not only do they provide feedback from residents, but they can also help to identify any potential problems before they become bigger issues.

You can also use other methods such as focus groups and interviews to get feedback from your current residents about their experiences with your facility's staffing levels. 

Using Xenia to get the most out of your staff

Assisted living staffing is a complex issue. It's not just about how many staff to hire; it's about getting the right tools to equip your team. The best way to do this is with Xenia, a cloud-based platform that helps you manage your assisted living facility

Xenia's task management abilities allow you to easily assign and track tasks for your staff. This can help you to ensure that tasks are completed on time and that everyone is on the same page. Xenia can help simplify facility management by providing a central place to track all of your facility's information.

Do more with Xenia. Book your free demo today!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question? Find our FAQs here. If your question hasn't been answered here, contact us.

What is the ideal staffing ratio in an Assisted Living Facility and why is it important?

The ideal staffing ratio in an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) generally starts at one caregiver for every four residents.

However, this ratio may vary depending on the level of care required by the residents and the range of services offered.

Adequate staffing is crucial to ensure that residents receive personalized attention and assistance with daily activities (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, and feeding. Proper staffing levels are essential for maintaining quality care, ensuring resident safety, minimizing accidents, and responding promptly to emergencies.

How do different departments within an Assisted Living Facility impact the staffing ratio?

In an Assisted Living Facility, staffing requirements extend beyond direct care providers to include administrative, cleaning, and maintenance staff.

The ratio typically refers to the number of residents per caregiver and does not interchangeably account for other departmental staff. However, the overall operation of the facility, including these other departments, is crucial for providing a holistic care environment.

The number of these staff members should be proportionate to the facility's size and the number of residents to maintain operational efficiency and resident satisfaction.

What are some key factors to consider when determining the staffing ratio for an Assisted Living Facility?

When determining the staffing ratio for an Assisted Living Facility, consider factors like the turnover rate of direct care workers, the allocation of vacations and sick days, and wage inflation. High turnover can affect consistency in resident care, so it's important to have a sufficient number of staff to cover for absences and ensure continuous care.

The recent increase in minimum wage for direct care workers should also be factored into budgeting for staff. Additionally, each facility should assess the specific needs of its residents, as those requiring more intensive care may necessitate a higher staff-to-resident ratio.