The recent defeat of an Indiana Bill that would have set minimum staffing standards for nursing home care is a real slap in the face for both nursing home patients and nursing home staff. Under the terms of HB 1412, sponsored by Representative Clyde Kersey (D- Terre Haute), Indiana nursing homes would be required to hire at least one CNA for every six patients during the day and one CNA for every nine patients at night. The resulting staffing ratios would have provided nursing home patients with at least 3.3 hours of care each day.
Certainly, most will look at this opposition to minimum staffing levels as a disappointing situation for nursing home patients. In fact, I have little doubt that the continued under-staffing of Indiana nursing homes will result in untold numbers of situations involving abuse and neglect.
However, I think it’s perhaps equally important to acknowledge the other victims in this obvious short-sightedness— the nursing home staff!
It has recently become somewhat fashionable to trash the staff at nursing homes. Indeed, there are a number of situations where particularly unfit people have managed to wrangle themselves into caring for some of the most vulnerable.
While indeed there may be some defiant, radical– and yes downright bad seeds– included in the nursing home staffing mix– it is important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of these people are working hard to do their best with a difficult situation.
I have had the privilege of meeting many of these truly dedicated folks– the people who are on the front-lines providing care to many of our family members. Despite, some incredibly difficult working situations, long hours, decidedly unglamorous working condition (and abhorrently low wages), many of them bust their hump everyday knowing that their role is indeed crucial for the well-being the patient.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes— and states (such as the fine State of Indiana) are flat out failing to recognize the importance of staff in the the nursing home context. Rather, by failing to establish minimum staffing levels, more work will continue to be heaped on this already over-worked group. Perhaps, before these politicians decide to cut plans to improve staffing levels, they consider similar reductions with their support staff and see how effectively they are able to do their jobs?
For laws related to Indiana nursing homes, look here.
Crisis of care among state nursing homes Indy Star, March 7, 2010