Over 50% of Assisted Living, Nursing Home Workers Report Burnout; 24% Say They Had Covid-19

There is a growing mental health crisis facing frontline health care workers, including those in senior living.

That’s reflected in a new survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post. One out of every six respondents reported contracting Covid-19, with nursing homes and assisted living facilities the most frequent settings for positive cases.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of those workers reported testing positive for Covid-19, compared with 18% of hospital workers, 14% of those employed in doctor’s offices or clinics, and 8% in home health care.

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The survey, which sampled 1,327 workers representing hospitals, doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home health care companies, found that 62% indicated they experienced stress related to Covid-19 that had a negative impact on their mental health.

Additionally, 56% of respondents said that pandemic-related stress resulted in trouble sleeping; 31% developed severe headaches or stomach aches, and 16% reported increased alcohol or drug use. Approximately 30% of respondents either sought mental health services as a result of pandemic-related stress, or indicated that they need counseling directly.

Moreover, a majority of health care workers across all settings polled for the survey, including 58% of those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, suggested that their employers are not providing additional pay for workers in high-risk environments.

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The KFF/Post survey lends credence to concerns about a burgeoning mental health crisis in senior living, which has contended with multiple challenges over the past year including problems recruiting new workers to the field out of fear that senior living is not a safe environment.

Compounding matters in 2020 was a litany of social unrest ranging from Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests across the country, the presidential election and the insurrection on the Capitol in January 2021.

This amounted to “a constant trauma,” psychotherapist Doris Klinkhamer told Senior Housing News in February.

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The 14-month long response to the pandemic is fueling concerns about burnout among senior living workforces; 56% of respondents in nursing home and assisted living settings reported feeling burned out at work.

The brunt of burnout is shouldered mostly among workers in the 18-to-29 age bracket — 69% of respondents in this age cohort report feeling burnout, compared to 59% in the 30-to-49 age bracket, 43% among health care workers age 50 to 64, and 27% among health care workers age 65 and up.

The 18-to-29 demographic is also shouldering the burden of Covid-19’s impact on mental health. While 62% of all respondents reported negative changes to their mental health during the pandemic, 75% of workers in the 18-to-29 cohort indicated an adverse impact on their mental health.

Additionally, 56% of younger workers believe Covid-19 negatively affected their physical health, 46% reported deterioration in family relationships, and 50% reported strained relationships with co-workers.

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