Unless a family member becomes too frail to live independently without help, most of us try not to think about long-term care.
While thousands of Floridians need help going to the bathroom, getting dressed, eating or even getting out of bed every morning, until someone we love is in that position due to a illness, injury or chronic decline, we prefer to ignore this reality. And yet, we all know that the time will come, for us and for those we love, when we will need help with these daily activities.
In Florida nursing homes, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are the professionals who provide this care to residents, and because the work is hard and the pay is low, they are in short supply.
No one denies that there is a staffing crisis in the nursing home industry. After decades of poor working conditions, few or no benefits, long hours and low wages, health care workers have had enough and are leaving the industry in droves. Across the country, restaurants, schools, construction and other industries are also experiencing labor shortages.
This issue has caused Florida nursing homes to struggle with staff and, in some cases, stop admitting new residents because they don’t have enough skilled workers to care for them. . Fortunately, both houses of the Florida legislature are allocating $100 million to address short-term healthcare worker shortages. Looking ahead, Florida must focus on developing and preserving our long-term care system for future generations.
There are many ways to solve Florida’s long-term care crisis, and it requires thought leadership, a reassessment of workforce and resident needs, and ultimately a much greater investment. in long-term care options and the health workers who support this industry.
Unfortunately, the nursing home industry is not interested in any of this.
Instead, nursing home operators are looking for ways to lower the bar by changing what “counts” as nursing care rather than committing to fixing a broken system. Current legislation would allow nursing homes to reduce daily nursing care for residents and hire fewer qualified nursing staff to perform these demanding tasks. Rather than investing in improving the quality of life for residents and working conditions for staff, industry groups are spending big bucks in Tallahassee to advance their agenda.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that doesn’t write checks to lawmakers — we advocate on behalf of the 2.8 million Floridians who believe residents of Florida nursing homes deserve the best care.
AARP opposes the legislation (HB 1239/SB 804) by the rep. Lauren Meloa Republican from Naples, and Sen. Ben Albriton, a Bartow Republican, who is cutting nursing care by 20%, cutting the daily hours CNAs spend with each resident from 2.5 to 2.0 hours. If these bills pass, it will mean that health workers will have to do more with less help, and that is not the answer. Data from the Florida researchers shows that nursing home quality is positively related to adequate nursing staffing. Minimum nurse staffing standards exist to ensure assistance in tasks essential to quality care.
Caring for residents of nursing homes has always been complex – this is nothing new. Florida’s critical need for highly trained nurses hasn’t changed – it’s only become more vital. So why do lawmakers want to reduce the time CNAs spend with our most vulnerable residents?
AARP believes that Floridians deserve a high-quality long-term care system that embraces innovation and invests in reforms that will benefit residents and health care workers. If Florida continues these foolish efforts to reduce the quality of nursing home care, our long-term care system will continue to disappoint residents. We don’t need more legislative changes that would let nursing homes off the hook and further damage nursing standards.
This is the wrong decision for Floridians and their families. Let’s keep nursing care in nursing homes.
Jeff Johnson is the state director of AARP Florida.