Our Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys often refer to the quality of care provided by different long-term care facilities in our area. But when we refer to a home and the services it provides, in the end, we are talking about the actual staff members employed by the facility. Day in and day out it is the individual employees who work directly with this vulnerable community that determines the level of care received. That is why it is vital to explore the human relations aspect of these long-term care facilities to get at some of the root causes of nursing home abuse and neglect.
For example, one strong indicator of problems at a facility-and an increased likelihood of nursing home neglect-are high turnover rates among caregivers both at-home and in nursing homes. This issue was discussed last week in a USA Today article. Unfortunately, staffing problems seem to be common. The story notes that with the aging of the overall national population, the long-term care industry faces chronic understaffing issues coupled with high turnover rates.
A recent research project from the Institute for the Future of Aging Services found that turnover rates vary year to year among states—usually between 60% and 100%. To combat the problem, the research effort can up with a list of recommendations. Those include offering a living wage to these employees, ensuring they have proper benefits, and are provided overtime pay. Each Chicago elder neglect attorney at our firm realizes that these issues are perhaps more likely related to home health care workers who-amazingly-were not required to be paid minimum wage and overtime until last December.
However, as is always the case, those running these businesses rarely wish to cut back from their own bottom line by paying workers more. Instead, the only way to get workers better pay is usually to require the seniors themselves to foot the bill with rate increases. This was part of the complaint made by agency owners fighting the Labor Department’s recent rule changes forcing these workers to receive minimum wage. Of course, keeping this all into perspective, even workers making minimum wage only receive $16,000 per year.
As those working on nursing home abuse and elder neglect explain, turnover is particularly damaging in senior care situations. Instead of developing strong relationships with caregivers who are able to learn about an individual’s particularly needs and concerns, many seniors see new workers on a constant basis. Training is often minimal and new employees have a learning curve. With few caregivers having actual experience and many of them leaving quickly, the overall level of care often remains quite low. Vulnerable seniors suffer as a result.
Keeping turnover rates low is only one of many ways that care can be improved at nursing homes and home care agencies. However, it is one of the most important ways to do so, because it relates directly to the level of treatment seniors receive each and every day. More pressure needs to be placed on these businesses by community members, demanding that changes be made so that good employees are retained.
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