In the just over a year that Bob Trout has lived at this long-term care facility, his wife of over 18 years, Marinda Trout, has seen firsthand how the pandemic, and subsequent staffing problems, have impacted his life.
“I have put him to bed a handful of times,” Marinda said.
“A lot of people, a lot of employees that went through the pandemic, don't want to return to long-term care,” Jay Moskowitz, the CEO of Vivage, the company that manages this facility, said.
It’s an industry-wide challenge.
“It’s still very stressful and very challenging, and I think that’s what contributes to the high level of turnover,” Doug Farmer, the president of the Colorado Health Care Association, said. “I think seeing everything I have seen in the last two and a half years, I’m not surprised turnover has increased."
Farmer said that’s why many facilities have turned to temp workers and temp agencies, but that presents its own problems.
“People that work for staffing agencies generally receive a much higher level of pay than the profession can keep up with on a regular basis,” Farmer said. “The challenge right now is just attracting people back to full-time employment.”
“We are still using outside agencies,” Moskowitz said. “Ultimately, the goal is to have our own staff.”
A recent survey of the industry by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service found that national nursing home staff turnover is up 25% from last year.
“It is really tough right now to make hires. We currently have more than 2,100 open positions in our nursing homes, and this would mean we’d need to hire about 14 employees in each of our buildings to fill that void,” Aimee Middleton, the vice president of operations at Good Samaritan Society, said.
The nonprofit senior care provider has 200 locations across the U.S.
Middleton said they’ve turned to creative recruitment and increased wages to attract people.
“In the last month, we have had to deny admissions in over 20% of our locations because of staffing shortages, and that number is up from five and a half percent in March,” she said.
Farmer said he’s seen everything from increased pay to more vacation days and even drawings for good attendance to attract workers back.
“It's going to take more people being interested in long-term care. It’s going to take getting more people through nursing school,” Farmer said.
“They should be paid like we care how they treat our loved ones,” Trout said.
But in some cases, that can be tough.
“We’re limited on the Medicaid reimbursement,” Moskowitz said. “The reimbursement system is not endless. It's based on your and my tax dollars we pay and what the state’s willing to commit.”