Nursing home care is something many family caregivers see as part of the future, at least at some point, for their senior loved ones — and maybe even for themselves.
Looming staff shortages on the front line of resident care could make nursing home openings harder to find or more expensive (maybe both).
Even with the stated desire for aging in place by many current and future seniors, the growth in the number of older adults seeking nursing home placements is seen as challenging the already-strained recruiting efforts.
Nursing Home Direct-Care Staff
Some key points can aid in understanding what’s behind the difficulty nursing homes are already having in finding employees to fill positions that provide direct care.
- The nature of some tasks that are part of the work, which can include tasks such as changing residents’ diapers (briefs) and worse, is found by many to be unpleasant and undesirable.
- With hours that are often long and include lifting residents from their beds or chairs, many find the job exhausting.
- Wages that are typically under $12 per hour are seen as too low by many for the work that is expected.
- Occupational injury rates that rival those of professional athletes and are more than double those in manufacturing and construction industries feed a very high turnover rate.
Even though direct-care positions typically require little training and often not even a high school diploma, it’s easy to see why there is a turnover rate much higher than that seen across the healthcare industry.
Key Nursing Home Caregivers
Direct-care workers often define the nursing home experience for residents. These workers fill the most basic care needs and establish personal relationships with the those for whom they care, relationships that can have much to do with seniors’ satisfaction with their life in long term care.
Having good relationships with seniors may not be enough to ensure direct-care workers are safe on the job, let alone enjoy going to work each day. In addition to work that is simply unpleasant at times, front line caregivers can find themselves regularly verbally and even physically abused by those under their care.
The abuse on caregivers may be from dementia sufferers who aren’t aware of what they’re doing or the impact they have on others. It might also be an expression of frustration by nursing home residents who are unhappy with their health and functional loss, family members who don’t visit often enough or one of many other factors.
Regardless of the reasons behind the physical and emotional bruises direct-care workers receive, it’s understandable why it’s hard to fill open positions and those doing the work may choose to leave their jobs.
Meaning for Family Caregivers
Difficulty filling and keeping filled direct-care positions may mean open nursing home beds will be harder to find for many seniors or that increasing costs to keep positions filled put this long term care option out of reach. Either way, family members may find their senior loved ones aging in place in their own homes even longer than expected — or forced to move into the homes of family members.
Seniors who are candidates for nursing home care but find it out of reach may be able to receive professional in-home care at least part time. Regardless, their needs may drive them to lean more on family caregivers than in earlier stages of their aging.
What can family caregivers, or future caregivers, do about this? We’re hoping one of you will offer up the solution. In the meantime, preparation, emotionally, financially and otherwise seems the best way to prepare to meet the needs of senior loved ones who would otherwise be living in a nursing home environment.
That and making sure those providing direct care to our senior loved ones currently know their efforts are appreciated!