Abusive Long-Term Care Corporations
Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss
Synopsis and Key Points:
Long-term care industry issues related to short staffing, low pay, poor benefits, employee retention and disregard for employee safety.
Main DigestThe long-term care industry is dominated by a handful of major corporations at this time in America. The corporations involved in this industry have some serious issues to deal with yet continue to avoid them. Issues related to short staffing, low pay, poor benefits, employee retention, and even outright disregard for employee safety continue to plague these facilities.
Long-Term Care - A variety of services that includes medical and non-medical care to people who have a chronic illness or disability. Long-term care helps meet health or personal needs. Most long-term care is to assist people with support services such as activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom. Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, in assisted living or in nursing homes. It is important to remember that you may need long-term care at any age.
My husband was a C.N.A. From the mid-1980's onward, and he tells me that staffing shortages were an issue back then. They still are today and long-term care providers are reporting an unprecedented number of vacancies and turnover rates among their workers. The industry itself has acknowledged the labor shortage crisis it now experiences, as well as the potential for negative consequences related to the quality of care and the quality of life this presents. The shortages of staffing are likely to worsen as time progresses and demand for aides, nurses, and other workers in the long-term care industry increases and the baby-boom generation ages.
The majority of those who work in long-term care are paraprofessionals. After informal caregivers, paraprofessionals are the most essential workers in this industry, helping seniors and younger people who experience forms of disabilities to maintain a level of function and quality of life. As with informal caregivers, the vast majority of long-term care workers are women.
Most long-term care workers are economically disadvantaged, for the most part, and have lower educational achievements. While these workers are involved in work that is both physically and emotionally demanding, they remain among the lowest paid workers in the service industry and often earn just above minimum wage. Data suggests these workers are also among those without health insurance at a high rate; a true irony for people who work in the health care field.
As someone who has worked in the long-term care industry for many years I can say that there are aides and other workers who are highly-dedicated and who remain in the field for decades. There are also those who are there one minute and gone the next for any number of reasons, from health-related reasons to sheer irresponsibility. People experience health issues no matter who they are and this is understandable. What is not acceptable are those who decide to work in the long-term care industry and then commit abuse or other negative actions against residents, family members, or fellow staff.
Many of the people entering the long-term care field as aides are young, inexperienced, and may not not have the same work ethics as the aides or other workers who came before them. What this means is the workers entering the field today are at times not as responsible as the ones in the past, leading to an exasperation of the worker shortage. It takes service-minded, dedication to the care of others, and very human perspectives to succeed in the long-term care field.
While the work of providing care for others may be unpleasant at times, the rewards far outweigh any un-pleasantries along the way. Those who join the health care field do so because they have a level of awareness of just how rewarding it is to work with people. Workers who try out long-term care and find they do not like it move on to other types of work, but it those who are dedicated to the profession who are greatly needed.
Unfortunately, there just are not enough dedicated health care workers in long-term care. The response by the corporations that rule the long-term care industry has been less-than wholesome, to say the least. Their focus has been on profit before people in far too many instances, with a concentration on meeting state minimum standards instead of working towards meeting the needs of residents, family members, and staff.
Ongoing Issues and Long-Term Care Corporations
Long-term care corporations many times still use computer software that is a decade old, for example. Computer hardware in use today in many facilities is aging, and staff members find themselves dealing with ongoing hardware and software issues. When management staff encounter corporate representatives, it is often for the purpose of presentations on the part of those corporate representatives, who take up the time of staff members who should be providing care.
Corporate representatives approach issues such as short staffing, interpersonal issues among staff members at a facility, or other issues that arise through phone calls and email for the most part. Resolution of these issues is often pursued from an, 'immediate solution,' perspective and not a long-term one. The same issues tend to arise repeatedly.
For example, if there is an interpersonal issue between a member of the management and members of the staff, tensions can arise. If a solution is not achieved through the staff at the facility, a member of the corporate representation may become involved, yet the perspective of an immediate solution instead of a long-term one finds the issue arising repeatedly. One person; management personnel or not, can cause immense stress on the rest of the staff and no real resolution is achieved - leading to a decrease in the quality of care the residents receive, as well as ongoing tension among the entire staff.
In the meantime, the corporate representative who became involved feels as if the issue has been resolved and most likely will refuse to approach it again until it cannot be ignored, despite any level of documentation. What this leads to is a flight of staff members who might otherwise remain in the facility providing quality care - all due to one person on the staff who is causing interpersonal issues and the refusal of the corporation to resolve the issues. Who wants to stay at a job where one person on the staff is making the job unbearable and the corporation doesn't seem to care
Lousy Pay and Bad Benefits
The number of aides, nurses, and other long-term care workers who make truly lousy wages may not be counted, but the results are clear enough. People who work in the long-term care industry, particularly aides, shift from one job to another simply because one facility offers fifty cents more per hour than another. They leave one facility for another because of a somewhat better benefits package.
The corporations that rule the long-term care industry present their workers with health care benefits that are the cheapest the company can get by with in far too many instances. Some corporations shift between insurance companies based upon financial matters instead of the benefits the insurance company offers its employees. The same long-term care corporations offer their employees, 'industry standard,' wages without a single concern for the quality of life their employees have.
The result of this practice on the part of major long-term care corporations is health care workers who live as cheaply as they can and experience health issues they might not otherwise. When a health care worker becomes ill or injured, they may not seek medical attention because their benefits do not cover enough of the costs, finding them missing shifts at work and guess what? The burden of the work the staff member who misses work shifts is placed upon another health care worker.
The practice finds the residents in the facility going without a health care worker who would have been there for them, often times on a consistent basis. It results in a reduced quality of care. The focus on saving money for the corporation by offering cheap wages and bad benefits leads to a reduced quality of life for the residents and the health care workers. When a health care worker is ill or injured and misses a shift, other workers are called-in to cover their shift and end up working more, leading to a reduction in their time off.
Disregard for Family Members
Long-term care corporations have no regard for the family members of their employees. The corporations understand they must have a certain number of management and other staff member per facility and have that number down to a fine art. The corporations hire the minimum number of staff members required and keep the number of staff members to the least number of employees they can to save as much money as possible for the company. What this means is that whenever an aide or another staff member walks off of the job, becomes ill or injured, or is on vacation - the rest of the staff must cover their absence.
The family members of health care staff find themselves without the presence of their loved ones. Family members find themselves having to deal with the aftermath of their loved one's stress, being over-worked, tired, and frustrated by the corporation's disregard for both their loved one and themselves. Family members can find themselves wondering if the corporation their loved one works for even has any level of recognition for them at all.
Productivity Over Person
The long-term care corporations of America many times have an unofficial policy of, 'productivity over the person,' meaning health care workers are viewed from a perspective of how much work the corporation can get out of them instead of a view of the employee as a person. When an employee experiences an injury, for example, the corporation may still expect them to work unless they have written documentation from a physician explaining why they are unable to work. Yet the benefits the corporation offers may be so lousy the health care worker avoids seeking health care for themselves, even for an injury related to work, because the costs are prohibitive.
Further injury may be the result, or even disability. Long-term care corporations often times do not care; without written documentation from a physician, the health care worker's injury may as well not exist. Yet the reduction in the quality of care the residents of the facility experience, as well as the potential for further injury or disability on the part of the employee, do not seem to be a concern for the corporation that has offered the employee lousy health care benefits as long as the employee continues to show up for work. It is only when the employee becomes further injured or disabled that the corporation notices.
At that point, the employee is often simply replaced; corporations value productivity over the person. As long as the position in the long-term care facility is filled and someone is productive, the individual health care worker themselves are irrelevant. Despite glitzy little employee recognition programs, these long-term care corporations often times have little regard for their employees as individuals.
America Wonders Why There is a Long-Term Care Worker Shortage
America is facing a massive generation of baby-boomers who are aging and entering long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and other care facilities. The people who work in these facilities are being treated very poorly by the major corporations who dominate this industry in far too many instances, with issues that have been ongoing for years. From all appearances, these corporations are more interested in the latest gimmicky presentation than they are in any real lasting solutions.
From continuous staff shortages to an apparent disregard for the quality of life of both residents and staff, these corporations continue to pursue profit over people. With a focus on productivity over the well-being of the health care workers in their employ, long-term care corporations continue to pursue wage and health care benefits policies that find workers leaving facilities for other ones for a mere fifty cents per hour more, or slightly better health benefits. Fully-aware of these issues, these corporations continue to pursue the meeting of state minimum standards while putting a pretty face on their facilities.
Is it any wonder there is a shortage of long-term caregivers in America? When a single staff member can continue to disrupt the entire staff and the corporation ignores it; when lousy pay and poor health benefits continue to be corporate policy, when health care workers can experience an injury and the corporation doesn't care until the worker can no longer work and then replaces them - what incentive do health care workers have to remain in the field, or even approach it
For dedicated health care workers it is all about the quality of life the residents of the facility have. Yet the practices and policies of many long-term care corporations lead to a poor quality of life for residents in their facilities, despite attempts to put a pretty face on the facility. Despite the lack of regard on the part of many long-term care corporations, dedicated health care workers continue to do their very best for people in long-term care.
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