A caregiver of any type is considered one of the most physically and emotionally demanding jobs there is. To be responsible for the day-to-day survival of another is exhausting and grueling work. For those whose job it is to provide direct care to non-family members, turnover can be high, particularly when wages are low, insurance benefits are weak or non-existent, and when the workplace culture does not value these employees.
Wisconsin’s long term care industry is feeling the impact of these conditions. With an average pay of just $10.75 an hour for direct care long term care workers, they are falling on hard times trying to fill positions. The state’s current average hourly wage of $12 for other entry-level employees is a tough pill to swallow for those who care for our loved ones day in and day out. But this isn’t just Wisconsin’s problem. States all over the country are having trouble filling LPN and CNA positions and are using things such as double shifts and overtime to attempt to compensate employees. While extra hours might mean more pay, the wages are still appallingly low and employees in these positions often find themselves burnt out, angry, and exhausted. Even worse, many are taking these jobs as a last resort, knowing that nursing homes are notorious for high patient loads, long hours, and no downtime.
Nursing Home Staffing Shortages Will Only Get Worse
For a state with a low unemployment rate (just 3%), Wisconsin’s nursing home direct care employee vacancy rate of 20% is drastically high. Just 2 years ago, the state had a 14.5% vacancy rate for these same staff members, signaling that there is no end in sight for the worker shortage. While this news is already worrisome for those of us with loved ones in a nursing home or those of us nearing retirement age, it’s even harder to hear that a recent report conservatively estimates that Wisconsin long term care facilities will need 26.4% more direct care employees by 2030 than they need NOW.
Nationwide, it is believed that the number of those over age 85 will more than double by 2030. We need a fair living wage for direct care employees in nursing homes. Our loved ones deserve to be cared for by those who are not only paid for their hard work, but are valued and respected by their employer. It’s a simple solution to a major issue, but nursing home operators don’t seem in any rush to take steps to fix the problem.