WSJ: Senior Care Labor Shortage Coinciding With Skyrocketing Demand

| April 16, 2013

Demand for senior care services is set to skyrocket at the same time high turnover rates and low wages are worsening the shortage of nursing aides, according to an article from the Wall Street Journal.

With the number of Americans aged 65 and older projected to reach 73 million in 2030, the demand for nursing aides will continue to grow. But high demand exacerbated by similarly high labor turnover. 

Between 43% and 75% of nursing aides turn over each year, studies have found, compared to a 27% rate for all healthcare and social-assistance jobs in 2012, notes WSJ.

Industry leaders have also linked high turnover rates to quality of care, as hiring a new aide typically costs about $4,000 in recruitment and administrative expenses, according Dr. David Gifford to WSJ, a senior vice president at the American Health Care Association.

Low wages are another factor. Currently, the median hourly wage for nursing aides is $11.74, according to the U.S. Labor Department, compared to $16.71 per hour for all occupations. 

While business owners say they would love to be in a position to increase pay, there is “no clear path” toward higher wages because of cutbacks in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, both of which are main sources of operators’ revenue. 

In some situations, injury rates have forced nursing aides away from work, specifically nonfatal injuries measured in days away from work, restrictions and transfers to a different job, or DART rate. 

In 2011, privately owned nursing care facilities had a combined DART rate of 5.3 cases per 100 full-time workers, notes WSJ. This was better, albeit not by much, than the 2010 rate of 5.6 cases.

The DART score for all other occupations ranks in at an average score of 1.9. 

Surprisingly enough, nursing aides have a higher DART rate than construction workers (2.1) and manufacturing (2.4). 

It is not just the toll heavy lifting takes on an aide’s body that deters workers, but the patients they see can often cause them harm.

Some nursing aides in the article described being punched in the face or spat on when helping patients with a form of dementia.

While there is no federal standard for nursing aide staffing levels, about two-thirds of states have set minimum levels.

Better pay and a working conditions for aides would help reduce turnover and workers’ compensation claims for injuries, says Dorie Seavey, Ph.D., director of policy research at the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute.

Turnover costs among aides and other “front-line” workers in long-term healthcare are estimated at $6.3 billion a year, including recruiting and training, according to Seavey.

Read the Wall Street Journal article.

Written by Jason Oliva


Category: Senior Housing

Comments (2)

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  1. DrDestouches says:

    Caregivers must at the very least be paid the federal minimum wage…Anything less is inhumane…

  2. Joe Lucido says:

    When the industry hires high school girls or people who have no training to do the work of people who should be "Professional" caregivers and have the knowledge on how to handle residents and patients with Alzheimer's or Dementia, and other problems that only "Professionals" can give the proper care for, and then on top of that pay them nothing that would be considered a living wage, what do you expect to happen?

    There is absolutely no doubt that the industry needs "Professional" people who have gone through a training program on how to manage a patient with these mind altering diseases, and seniors who have other problems that need a "Professional" But of course these training programs cost money, the Caregivers hired cannot be high school girls who have no idea on what their doing or even care for that matter, because they are going to leave you the first chance they get to move on.

    This dilemma between pay and knowledge needs to be addressed if we are ever going to deliver the quality of care we say we are going to provide.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have been in an Independent Living, Assisted Living facility or a Nursing Home where I have seen care so shabbily delivered it should be considered a dereliction of duty to keep this business model going. If your only goal is to keep a warm body on your staff to lure a potential resident into your facility, then you are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    With the coming boom of seniors in the next 20 to 40 years, this industry is going to change, weather we like it or not, those who realize this and address it with some out of the box thinking are going to be the ones who prosper, and the rest will go by the wayside, and deservedly so.

    "While business owners say they would love to be in a position to increase pay, there is “no clear path” toward higher wages because of cutbacks in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, both of which are main sources of operators’ revenue."

    This is true, but this is also where the out of the box thinking comes in, if you are just going to sit back and cry about the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, then you will lose. This was coming and we all should have seen it coming, but no one to my knowledge did a single thing about it.

    Hiring "Professional” Caregivers and paying a living wage is the only answer to this problem, now let sit down and work on how to pay for it, as an industry, if we work together we can do it. We are not stupid people, there are a lot of variables in this situation, there is also a lot of people with ideas on how to come together to solve this problem.

    Joe Lucido
    Director
    Alzheimer's Research Association
    joe@alzra.org http://www.alzra.org