What does it mean when a third of Ohio nursing homes are understaffed?

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No one from Chesterwood Village immediately responded to a request for comment.

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A third of Ohio nursing homes are understaffed, gerontology professor Bob Applebaum said, and home care and assisted living centers are also struggling to find workers.

“I can tell you that when it comes to long-term service worker shortages, the problem has never been greater than it is today,” Applebaum said. “Throughout my career.”

Applebaum has studied Ohio’s aging population for 40 years and is director of the Ohio Long Term Care Research Project at the Scripps Gerontology Center at the University of Miami.

Nursing homes have struggled to retain workers for decades. Low wages, hard work and lack of recognition fuel high turnover in this industry which worsens when unemployment rates are low.

“So you’re paying teens more money to return burgers to McDonald’s than we do for people who provide very difficult personal care to people with functional disabilities,” Applebaum said. “Help someone use the bathroom, help someone get dressed.”

The pandemic has made jobs even more stressful, Applebaum said.

All long-term care facilities in Ohio are experiencing some staff shortage, Ohio Health Care Association executive director Pete Van Runkle said in an interview with WCPO last week.

“People are leaving because they can’t take it anymore,” Van Runkle said. “They can’t stand having to deal with the pandemic. Because health care and long-term care in particular are on the front lines. “

Van Runkle expects more staff to step down to avoid the COVID vaccine tenure President Joe Biden announced two weeks ago. It requires vaccinations for workers in most health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals and nursing homes.

“Things are only getting worse and there isn’t really much light at the end of the tunnel,” Van Runkle said. “People are already coming out the door. It’s like, OK, I know this tenure is coming and I’m not going to comply with it, so I’m just going to go ahead and find another job now.

Nursing home operators are in a difficult situation between wanting to protect vulnerable residents from COVID and needing to retain staff members who might not want a vaccine.

The entire industry is grappling with fewer residents and higher costs due to COVID testing and the payment of higher wages for temporary staff, Applebaum said.

This is especially the case in Ohio, where nursing home staff shortages are above the national average. But vaccination rates among staff are low compared to most other states.

“Ohio is a great state. We are the sixth aging population in the country, so we have a lot of old people, ”Applebaum said. “And we have a lot of nursing homes. “

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 79% of residents in Ohio long-term care facilities are fully vaccinated against COVID. Yet just over half of the health workers inside these facilities, or 53 percent, have been fully immunized.

It will likely be months before nursing homes know if the vaccination mandate has improved or worsened staff and safety.

But at 100 years old, Helen Paulik is looking to the future.

LOT TAN / CONTRIBUTED
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What if there will be enough staff to push their wheelchair to a sunny spot on the patio?

“I would like them to take me outside when the weather is nice. And good meal, ”said Helen Paulik. “There is nothing better than sitting outside with someone else. It makes no difference who it is.


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