The Women's Journal

Staffing To Assist Seniors Is Still A Commodity

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By Kristin Stetler Donovan, Owner, Aging In Place

Thinking back many years, when I was one of the primary caregivers for my mother and father. I remember walking the halls of skilled nursing facilities, where both my parents resided short term and seeing staff bustling in the hallways. It is hard for me to fathom, but this was over 15 years ago, and I can’t for the life of me, reconcile the dramatic difference in landscape then versus now.  

Fast forward, approximately 5 years later, from the time I spent caring for my parents and directing their care. I started my own home care agency, Age Advantage in 2013. I supply caregivers to support seniors’ needs; whether they live independently, at home, in a community or reside with family. I have learned so much in the last 10 years, and have helped and supported so many in need. Caregiving and working in a caregiving field is such a labor of love. I have been blessed to meet so many incredibly beautiful souls that genuinely care about people and who take such pride in caring for and assisting seniors. 

As I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary as a part of the Age Advantage franchise network, I realized that the last 3 years have been THE most difficult since joining the franchise. As a result, I decided to separate from the franchise and become independently owned and operated. This led me to open my own new agency: Aging in Place Senior Care Services.

It was a literal state of emergency. At the time something had to be done. According to AARP magazine, an article drafted described the placement of CNAs in training in order to quickly get support for seniors. This program, put in place by the Trump Administration, issued nursing homes a blanket waiver letting them onboard nurse aides that hadn’t completed the required training of at least 75 hours within four months of employment. Many states adopted a temporary nurse aide (TNA) program, allowing workers to be hired after substantially less training, often only eight hours online. Implementation of this emergency initiative was put into place because there were little to no staff to support seniors care needs in communities. This initiative was later questioned regarding the quality and/or its success by the Biden Administration. As a result, the waiver was lifted by the Biden Administration in June 2022, citing concern that it had contributed to poor health outcomes for residents. 

The senior care industry is lobbying to allow waiver extensions for another two years, maybe even permanently if they are effective in alleviating staffing issues. Such extensions would “prevent further devastating job losses, in turn protecting access to care for our nation’s seniors,” states Senior Vice President Holly Harmon of quality, regulatory and clinical services at the AHCA/NCAL. Some disagree and suggest a wide range of job improvements, like paid leave, improved training and increased pay to help retain staff. 

According to AARP there was “a large-scale exodus of workers over the past three years which has made worse what was already an understaffed situation in many of America’s nursing homes. Today record high staffing shortages and an unprecedented level of underqualified staff are leaving residents with even less care than before COVID’s arrival.” Staffing has always been challenging, and I am not sure what the solution may be. I am among the masses working in the senior care industry who don’t have that answer. Hopefully as we recover from the last three years that have left us reeling, we will be able to find a solution to this staffing problem. To date, no one has seemed to be able to effectively come up with any reasonable plan to improve the available staffing resources in the senior care industry.

I have always focused on those applicants or candidates with a caring heart, filled with compassion and empathy. Regardless of the dire need for staffing I will never waver when it comes to hiring the best quality candidates and I will never compromise on the state regulated criteria for hire or the integrity of my agency and our ability to render quality care. You cannot cut corners on quality hires or quality care.

If you are in need of support or assistance caring for a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact our office

(302) 722-8240

[email protected]

5586 Kirkwood Highway

Wilmington, DE 19808

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