The shortage of nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other nursing home caregivers is hitting critical levels in Texas. There are simply not enough skilled workers to fill all of the open positions in nursing homes across the state. What does that mean for you if your loved one is currently in a nursing home? It could mean that your loved one might not get the care they need, or the facility could be forced to close its doors. We take a look at this growing problem in Texas, Arkansas, and across the country.
What Has Caused the Shortage of Nursing Home Workers?
We have reached a kind of perfect storm when it comes to skilled nursing workers in Texas. As the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age and beyond, not only are they leaving nursing jobs open, but they are increasing the demand on the elder care system. Meanwhile, fewer young people see nursing and medical assistant jobs as attractive careers. To top it off, the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic pushed many health care workers over the edge and out of the industry, leaving thousands of jobs unfilled and health care providers who stayed overworked and exhausted. Finally, nurses and nursing assistants aren’t paid very much anywhere, but those who work in nursing homes are among some of the lowest paid in the nursing field. Given all of this, it’s no surprise that there is such a problem filling these positions.
What Could This Mean for Your Loved One?
If you are looking for a skilled nursing facility for your elderly loved one, you could have a tough time finding one in Texas, particularly if you live in a rural area. Since 2018, 60 nursing homes in Texas have closed for financial reasons, and the trend is continuing into 2023. With fewer facilities available, waiting lists are long—maybe too long to be of any use to an elderly person who is ill. Unfortunately, many of the alternatives to nursing homes, such as in-home care providers, assisted living facilities, and adult day care centers, have also been impacted by the shortages, so they might not be viable options in many communities.
If your loved one is already in a nursing home, there is the risk that it could close down suddenly, but the greater risk is their safety if the shifts are understaffed and individual residents aren’t getting the care and attention they need.
What Care Do Nursing Homes Have to Provide?
You might sympathize with the care providers in your loved one’s nursing home (and you should—they have it hard!), but that shouldn’t excuse the people in charge from doing everything they can to provide the necessary care to keep your loved one healthy and safe. Regardless of staff shortages, that care should include:
- Clean accommodations and nutritious food. Providing room and board is the primary function of a nursing home, and facilities are required to ensure that rooms and bedding are clean, residents are fed according to their individual needs, and the facility is secured to keep residents from wandering off.
- Medication monitoring. Some residents are in a nursing home primarily because they can’t manage life-saving medications on their own. It is the duty of the facility to ensure that each patient gets the meds they need on the correct schedule.
- Custodial care. Other residents are in the facility because they can no longer manage bathing, dressing, and toileting on their own. They are owed the dignity of having these services performed when they need them.
- Social activities. Simply meeting basic needs is not enough to keep nursing home residents healthy and happy. Facilities are obligated to offer social and recreational activities for the well-being of their residents.
We advise our clients with elderly relatives in nursing homes to check up on them frequently, communicate with the facility’s management, and report abuse and neglect to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Staff shortages should never put your loved one in danger.
Are You Looking for an Elder Law Attorney in Texas or Arkansas?
If you need the advice of an Elder Law attorney, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact us online or call our Texarkana office directly at 903.223.5653. We also have offices in Tyler, Paris, and Longview, as well as Magnolia and Hot Springs, AR!