Nurse shortage leads to death of elderly

Nurse shortage leads to death of elderly

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LUBBOCK, Texas - A current nursing home employee who wished to remain anonymous said patients are not getting the care they're entitled to. 

"It's not your standard neglect per law, but if someone has to wait 30 minutes to 45 minutes to have their diaper changed or their brief changed, to me that is neglect," John Doe said. 

The neglect has even lead to death.

"Returning from a procedure from a hospital and dying the next day because no one checked on them," Doe said.

It's due to what the Texas Health Care Association calls a work force crisis. It affects 110,000 employees and 92,000 elderly people. State law requires one caregiver to every five residents plus one licensed nurse for every 15 residents during the day. It mandates even more during the night. In reality, staff said it is more like one for at least 40 residents.

"You end up working in situations that you're completely stressed out, so you can't handle things like a rational person, so you may blow up or explode," Doe said. 

Data indicated the turn over rate of resident care takers in a nursing home in Texas is about 90 percent. Greg Bruce, Corporate Director of strategic planning for Crown Point Health said this profession is not for everyone.

"Nursing care is hard. People are challenged with the patients that they have to take care of and it is a very tough profession. There is a challenge in staffing right now. There is a challenge in recruiting folks," Bruce said.

With the baby boomers exiting the work force and becoming patients at hospitals and nursing homes, caregivers said the problem of understaffed nursing homes is only getting worse. 

"We're already in a small crisis, but in the next 10 to 15 years it is going to explode," Doe said.

The Texas Health Care Association indicated the employment crisis boils down to the state's Medicaid payment system. Its formulas can only be changed by the Texas Legislature.

"Our average rate which is around 143 or 144 dollars a day to provide 24 hour care to Medicaid residents is roughly about 50 dollars a day less than what the average Medicaid rate is across the country," Warren said.

The anonymous caregiver said part of the problem is the CEO's. He said they don't have a license on the line like nurses do, so they don't act urgently when understaffed.

"If anything goes wrong, we lose our license. These guys, the CEO's and stuff, they have no standards as far as laws or repercussions for being or doing the wrong thing," said Doe.

Bruce at Crown Point said they value their employee's opinions and set up programs to try to make employee's jobs easier and better. They are also trying to improve quality of healthcare.

"We're always looking at the care that we are providing today, the care that we provided yesterday and seeing what we can learn from that to improve the care that we provide tomorrow," Bruce said. 

In order to ensure the best care for your loved ones, caregivers suggested making several visits to nursing homes at different times, unannounced, and check it out yourself.

"Smell the air, check the staff ratios, look at the staff's attitude. Make sure that's a place you want your mom or dad to go because when you put them somewhere, those people don't look at them as your mom and dad," Doe said.

The Texas Health Care Association Reports more than two thirds of nursing homes' income throughout the state comes from Medicaid. Seventeen percent of it is from Medicare, or short stay residents, and the last 13 to 14 percent is privately funded. The legislature convenes in January. 

For more information: https://www.medicare.gov/

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