Nursing homes understaffed, caregivers underpaid

With instances of nursing home abuse and neglect on the rise and an aging baby boomer population, it is alarming how underpaid, poorly trained, and underappreciated nursing home staff members and care givers are. As America’s elderly population increases, the caregiver labor force hardly grows at all. Nursing homes and other care facilities are already unsettlingly understaffed. As of 2005, average caregivers were paid under $10 an hour and a quarter of the workforce had no health insurance. Even worse, the Supreme Court recently ruled that America’s one million home-care workers are not entitled to overtime pay under federal law. The Department of Health and Human Services said that the caregiver gap is the most acute in rural areas with few immigrants, as thousands of nurses from India, Pakistan and elsewhere work in other facilities. This is also at the expense of elderly patients who suffer from abuse and neglect and are forced to make do with ill-trained and overburdened helpers in understaffed nursing homes. The nursing home industry has over 100,000 vacancies for nurses and nursing aides and an annual turnover rate of 70% as nurses quit the profession or leave for higher-paying jobs. This high turnover creates the need for more training and recruiting of nurses, and the use of temporary contract workers. These extra costs amount to over $4 billion a year.

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