In a recent WPTV News Channel 5 news story, local nursing home caregivers are going on strike for a higher minimum wage. Workers there have been pushing for better conditions and pay for the past year. This attempt to raise the wages in the nursing home industry is long overdue. Absent decent wages, it is extremely difficult to hire quality, skilled workers to care for residents at these facilities. Unfortunately, far too often it is clear that the nursing home industry is much more concerned with maximizing profits as opposed to maximizing the level of care that its residents receive.
At Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, we have encountered many nursing homes where their business models are predicated upon having the smallest number of employees working as possible, for the lowest wages as possible. These workers, however, have important jobs. How they perform their jobs has a direct effect on the residents’ health, as well as their ability to continue living. If a nursing home offers minimum wage, or slightly higher than minimum wage, they often get stuck hiring people not because they love their job and are highly skilled, but because they simply cannot get a job anywhere else. If a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is not appropriately trained in body mechanics, they can drop a resident resulting in a broken hip, a subdural hematoma, a broken neck and even death. If skin breakdown avoidance measures, including a turning schedule, heel protectors, cushions and skin inspections, are not strictly adhered to, a resident can suffer horrific wounds, which can become infected and cause the resident’s death. If they do not monitor the food and water intake, the resident can die of malnutrition and dehydration. We have seen it all – uncaring nursing home workers who have turned a blind eye to a resident with dementia walking out of the home into harm’s way, residents who have fallen, suffered horrific skin breakdown, been abused and worse.
Many of our state’s nursing home population represent the most vulnerable people in our society. They are human beings that should be treated with the utmost of respect, not ignored and mistreated. We hope that the strikes are successful and the industry – which consistently records record profits – uses some of its profits to provide better care for their residents, and we can begin to overcome nursing home neglect.