So often I have talked about a caregiver shortage and the fact that this is a universal problem. This is for the most part usually the people who do the day to day care of the residents. What I am seeing lately is a bigger concern. Lack of nursing staff and the combining of positions because facilities can't find enough people to fill positions. For example, where my mom is there used to be a floor manager who oversaw the caregivers and then a head nurse who handled the nurses and nurse required care. My mom lives in an assisted living facility that has a floor dedicated to higher care needs while still being an assisted living and not a skilled nursing facility. Most of the people on that floor require a lot of care. Most are in wheelchairs, need feeding assistance and have significant issues. The system is such that you pay for the services you require day to day.
Since we have been at this facility I have seen a few people leave their job but when the caregiver manager left the head nurse took over her position. So now she is now doing two big jobs on her own. We were never told that but the caregiver manager job was never replaced with someone else and we were contacting the head nurse for anything we needed. This person is a good nurse but is overworked and that is a problem. For one she can't possibly be doing everything she needs to in a day. She often works multiple shifts and now even fills in as the night nurse because they are short sometimes on that. The kind of stress on this person must be overwhelming and as far as I am concerned it is not in the best interest of residents.
What does a family member do when this is going on? Many people do not know what is going on. It is crucial for family to pay attention and to ask many questions. If you have concerns you must contact the Executive Director and express your concerns in writing. Having overworked staff can effect your loved one. It does not mean something horrible will happen but having someone so exhausted that may not notice something they should or pay attention to changes as carefully as they should can cause issues worth concern. Ask your loved ones about staffing and pay attention to who is around when you are there and if things are being done as they should be according to your care plan.
My mom has as part of her plan to have fresh water in her water bottle on her wheelchair all the time so she does not become dehydrated. She can't use her hands so she can't do that herself. I can't tell you how many times I have come to her room and the water is not there or is old from the day before. Seems like a basic thing right? I also have in my care plan that she will be taken to the bathroom every time she returns from a meal. I have come over many times where someone brought her back from lunch and said someone else would be back to do the bathroom trip and they take a long time to get back. My mom will constantly say, "they are short-staffed today it is ok". She feels bad for them. So do I but that is not my concern. Her care is.
Staff shortages mean overworked people who don't pay attention as closely as they should because they are trying to get their job done. This is huge risk for residents. Please check out the below link for more information on how staff shortages can effect your loved one.