As our population is steadily aging, the quality of long-term nursing home care must be a top priority for the health care industry and our elected leaders. Unfortunately, one area that seems to be lagging – and which will only exacerbate if not addressed – is the shortage of nursing home aides.
These are the individuals who interact most closely with residents on a daily basis, helping them with basic daily tasks and functions, such as eating, toileting, bathing and teeth brushing. Yet, the lack of individuals in this field has meant that many nursing home residents aren’t receiving the quality of care to which they are entitled.
A recent report by Kaiser Health News reports shortages of home health aides and nursing assistants is threatening care for people with serious disabilities and vulnerable, elderly adults. In some cases, facilities have denied admission to people because they did not have the proper essential staff in order to provide a minimum level of care for them. It’s been the experience of our Orlando nursing home neglect attorneys, however, that some facilities will continue to accept patients, despite not having the essential number of staffers. What’s more, in some cases, the failure to fill these positions has less to do sometimes with availability of workers and more to do with the fact that for-profit facilities are looking for avenues to cut corners.
When nursing homes agree to take on patients, they agree to abide a basic standard of care, as outlined by Medicare.gov. These include the right to be treated with dignity and respect, as well as the right to receive proper medical care. In cases where nursing homes accept federal dollars to provide this basic level of care and yet fail to do so, they may face health care fraud charges, in addition to civil claims of nursing home neglect and wrongful death.
Some of the manifestations of the nursing aide shortage, as noted by Kaiser Health News, include:
- Patients in rural areas in New York have been injured, soiled themselves and gone without meals because there were not enough paid caregivers;
- In Wisconsin, nursing homes have denied thousands of potential patients admission to their facilities just in the last 12 months because they didn’t have enough essential staff.
Part of the issue is the fact that nursing home aides are paid on average $10 hourly. The work they are asked to do can be demanding, both physically and emotionally, and there are fewer and fewer workers willing to do it. This labor shortage is only going to get worse as the number of elderly Americans is expected to rise to 88 million people by 2050 (up from 48 million today).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports approximately 1.1 million people are going to be needed by 2024 just to provide a baseline level of care. That’s a nearly 25 percent increased compared to what we have now. Meanwhile, the population of women between the ages of 25 to 64 (those who primarily fill these jobs) is shrinking, and turnover rates are higher than ever. Wages have hovered at around $10 for the last ten years. A number of states have responded by raising minimum wage to $15 hourly.
Medicaid funds about two-thirds of nursing home resident stays, and some argue the payments are inadequate to cover the necessary costs. But even facilities that require seniors who pay out-of-pocket are having a tough time. Approximately 70 percent of administrators report a lack of qualified job applicants for nursing home work, and may aide positions go unfilled.
When lack of staff leads to lack of care and nursing home neglect, our attorneys can help.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
The disabled and the elderly face big problem: Not enough aides, April 24, 2017, By Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News
More Blog Entries:
Report: Nursing Homes Taking on Younger Patients, April 11, 2017, Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Blog