Staff shortages are the biggest threat to quality care. We need to recognize that working in a nursing home is hard work and staff make so little they often have to work two or more jobs to make ends meet. We are losing people to other employers that pay higher wages. We expect the staffing shortage to become worse in nursing homes if we aren’t able to keep up with the pay of other industries.
We must reimburse nursing homes at a rate that allows them to pay a livable wage and benefits for their staff. Medicaid is the primary payer source for nursing homes and the rate that is paid needs to be increased to allow better pay for workers. Many employers are moving to a $15 per hour rate and we need to move in that direction for staff in long-term care if we are to keep adequate staffing levels.
We also have to create clear pathways for staff in long-term care to further their education and have opportunities for career growth so we can keep people in this line of work. We need to create environments where staff are appreciated and want to work.
LeadingAge Georgia members who provide nursing home care are mission-driven, primarily not-for-profit and it shows in the quality of care in their communities. Each of them will tell you we have to shore up staffing. We need to take steps now because quality staffing equals quality care.
Ginny Helms is president of LeadingAge Georgia, an association of not-for-profit and other housing and services providers for older adults.