Eldercare facilities have faced many challenges in the last two years. The number of deaths due to COVID has reduced the occupancy, but at least 20% of nursing homes nationwide have reported a shortage of attendants and direct care workers. This number went as high as 60% during surges, but the demand for labor has kept staff numbers caring for the elderly consistently down. While few residents in facilities would seem like a benefit, critics claim that 70% of nursing homes are for-profit chains, so staff cuts are at the top of the list when cutting overhead.
The bottom line is more important than care
There also seems to be little attempt to fix the issue by bringing in more residents. AARP and other watchdog groups claim that these companies may also try to keep their occupancy numbers low to get a more significant chunk of the financial support from the federal government when the $25.5 billion available through the American Rescue Plan and Provider Relief Fund. Rather than use this money to hire staff with more competitive pay, the for-profit businesses put that money into the owners’ pockets — private equity firms own 11%. These businesses focused on their bottom line also are commonly accused of providing lower-quality care.
70% occupancy means 70% care
Telemedicine is more often used to care for residents, but caring for the elderly is a hands-on job. It can’t replace such essential jobs as bathing, feeding, changing, and moving. This leads to:
- Muscles further atrophy because residents cannot walk without assistance
- Bedsore because the residents are not getting turned or sitting in their feces and urine
- Less interaction with staff who can monitor residents’ health issues
Burnout and risk are also an issue
The healthcare industry is facing a crisis of burnout at all levels. Not only are staff facing unprecedented challenges in their day-to-day work. The long hours, high fatality rates and low staffing can lead to burnout for those who haven’t left. Burnout can mean staff members may have less empathy and compassion for residents.
There are also health risks for those who stick around. According to one recent study, elder care facility jobs with some of the most dangerous in 2020. These jobs were more deadly than logging and as deadly as working on a fishing boat.
Vigilance is key
Those with loved ones in elder care facilities can continue to monitor the care. Report any lapses or red flags to administrators. You can also report them to state and federal agencies that oversee the industry. Families may also need to take matters into their own hands by moving a parent or spouse to another facility or filing a lawsuit against the owner if they violate their agreement.