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Presbyterian Senior Living CEO: Workforce, Dining, Memory Care Changes Position Us for Further Growth in 2024

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Presbyterian Senior Living (PSL) CEO Dan Davis sees future opportunities in attracting younger residents and diversifying care, while positioning for growth.

Davis has been busy since taking the reins as CEO in November of last year. From focusing on improving staffing issues to revamping operations, including new approaches to dining and memory care, the nonprofit senior living provider has drilled down to improve both care and services. 

“We’re continuing the strive [for] realigning operations, focusing on those areas where our customer sees the most benefit from what we provide,” Davis told SHN at the recent LeadingAge conference in Chicago.

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Dillsburg, Pennsylvania-based PSL operates 12 life plan communities in four states.

PSL’s focus on operations and recovery

Davis said starting this year, PSL was focused on organizational health, including focusing on improving labor issues within the portfolio. New this year was a 4% match for employee contributions to the company’s retirement plan.

In a cost-savings move that created more efficiency, PSL transitioned all dining operations to be handled internally.

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That’s helped improve customer service and elevate the resident experience, a key that many operators have focused on in the push for wellness and lifestyle-driven amenities.

On the care side, PSL also added new programming to its memory care services to improve dementia care for residents across assisted living and skilled nursing, Davis said. The future of memory care for PSL could also transcend traditional development and include enhanced programming in-place rather than in a secured memory care neighborhood. 

“Everyone is seeing the need for memory care,” Davis said. “It’s becoming a wider type of service that needs to be provided. We wanted to be able to make sure that we could support people as best as possible.” 

In April of this year, PSL purchased the 532-unit Pine Run life plan community in Doylestown, Pennsylvania from Doylestown Health in a move that Davis called a “big lift.” The acquisition was made possible through a financing structure that allowed PSL not only purchase the community, but to restructure current debt obligations to address deferred maintenance at existing communities.

“I’m very proud of how well everything came together, how well we worked with Doylestown Health, and for our team members’ dedication and commitment to that effort,” Davis said.

Occupancy lagged this year with some decline in census in the middle of the year, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel with independent living driving a “pretty dramatic increase” in occupancy in the fourth quarter. Across the portfolio, the company reported 90% occupancy as of early November. Margin has also stayed true to early-year projections, with PSL reporting a 6% operating margin, Davis said. 

“In order for us to continue to have the necessary capital that we need for CapEx and keeping our communities up to date, we really need that 6% to 7%,” he said.

Battle on workforce continues

Since starting as CEO last year, Davis has helped champion improvements within the company’s staffing model.

Davis called workforce issues a “never ending battle” that all senior living operators face. At PSL, Davis noted improvement on retaining ancillary positions, some of the toughest areas to fill for operators.

To further improve on staffing, Davis said PSL is looking into technology solutions. The organization has implemented dining robots placed into communities, with the potential for other robotics in environmental services and maintenance.

“It’s not to replace people, because the people aren’t there,” Davis said. “They aren’t there, and we need to be able to get the job done.”

In order to improve engagement among staff, PSL appointed a “culture champion” at each community to ingrain values and promote buy-in from staff through weekly meetings.

“It really helps the new individuals understand the organization,” Davis said. “We have a unique workforce and we have to implement things at a local level that allows us to respond directly to particular workforce needs.”

This focus stems from the company reporting turnover at certain positions upwards of 40%, with challenges hiring care and nursing staff. This year, other operators reported similar issues on hiring and retention. That’s driven Davis and PSL leadership to review positions to determine how to recruit and better fill them. The company also implemented a text program to connect with new employees to ensure recently-hired staff are satisfied in their roles

2024 and ‘vertical integration’

Moving forward, Davis said he expects PSL to continue to “look at vertical integration of services,” as seen by the company launching a home care effort and purchasing a regional therapy company.

Future opportunities could also include lab, pharmacy and care services within the organization, Davis said, explaining that the goal would be to create a “better flow of those services but also so that we are able to recoup the benefits of those services being provided in our communities.”

Growth could also take the shape of new independent living options “across the board” through expansion projects at existing communities.

We are also focused on implementing strategies to attract younger residents to PSL,” Davis said. “So they can begin realizing the benefits of moving to a senior living community while they can enjoy all there is to offer.”

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