INDIANAPOLIS — The nursing home industry in Indiana is struggling to staff its facilities.
The latest labor report shows that nursing and residential care facilities across the country lost 9,600 jobs in the past month, and Indiana is no exception.
The Indiana Health Care Association, which represents many long term care facilities in our state, says COVID-19 concerns have resulted in a lot of turnover.
“Staffing has become an increased challenge obviously with COVID-19 and pre-COVID, staffing was a challenge, but it wasn’t a crisis,” said Zach Cattell, IHCA president. “Turnover in this sector, particularly with front line healthcare workers with certified nurse aids and LPNs—it’s very intense work, it’s emotionally and physically draining.”
A new survey released by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living found of more than 700 AHCA/NCAL members, 94% of nursing home providers said they have had a shortage of staff members in the last month, and among assisted living communities, 81% said they had similar staffing shortages.
Many Indiana nursing homes are offering wage increases, bonuses, and retention payments.
IHCA is working with higher education institutions to try to get more workers.
"All of health care needs assistance from the state and federal governments to incentivize recent graduates to serve some period of time in the sectors of greatest need,” said Cattell. “Long term care needs more workers. We need more nursing graduates. We need to work with our partners in higher education to produce more nursing graduates."
If you’re concerned about your loved one in a long-term care facility, you can talk with the facility’s administration about how staffing shortages will be communicated to you.
Most nursing home residents rely on Medicaid, but it only covers 70 to 80% of the actual cost of care.
The AHCA/NCAL survey also found that 81% of nursing home and 75% of assisted living providers believe that higher reimbursement would help them offer better pay and benefits to help recruit and retain staff.
The industry is also working to increase the number of workers who are fully vaccinated.
Currently, 52% of long-term care employees have gotten the shots, which is just under the state average.
Companies like American Senior Communities and Trilogy Health Services are requiring their employees to get vaccinated, and more may follow suit.
"The positives are that the residents are vaccinated, close to 80 percent, and we know vaccines work,” said Cattell. “The delta variant works and is a serious threat and we all need to take it seriously. We are continually pleading with folks to get vaccinated, particularly our staff, but the general population needs to follow that trend as well. "