Nursing homes struggle to find staff as population increases

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The Census Bureau recently reported that the U.S. 65 plus population grew by 14 million since 2000.

That number is expected to continue to increase in the upcoming years.

Care providers say they're not concerned about where to place the elderly population, but rather who will take care of them.

St. Gabriel's Community is a nursing home that recently added nearly 100 beds- reflecting the growing elderly population.

"We've seen a huge increase in inquiries, and people just looking at retirement communities, where that really wasn't the trend ten to 15 years ago," said Melyssa Cordova, director of marketing at St. Gabriel's Community.

The U.S. population over the age of 65 is nearly 50 million, or 15 percent. That's more than the population of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and California combined.

"The demand for skilled nursing is absolutely insane," said Cordova.

So, communities like St. Gabriel's aren't worried about having the space for residents.They're figuring out who will take care of them.

"Our greatest challenge today and in the future will be caregivers. Do we have sufficient younger staff, younger people coming in to take care of long term care residents," said Shelly Peterson, president of North Dakota Long Term Care Association.

The answer for many nursing homes is no.

"We build about two to three of these communities a yea in order to keep up operationally and provide the service. The biggest challenge we're seeing right now is being able to staff our communities," said B.J Schaefbauer, president of Primrose Retirement communities.

North Dakota has 400 open beds right now at long term care facilities, but homes fear they may have to turn people away in the future if staff numbers don't increase.

"We're able to meet the demand and the need. But as we age in the year 2025, will we be able to meet it? Possibly not," said Peterson.

The 65 plus population in North Dakota is expected to increase by 32 percent by 2025.

The US 65 plus population is expected to double by 2050.