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Raise the Bar on Resident Care

Published on November 12th, 2019

A forum to discuss the need for safe staffing was recently held in Rhode Island.  The coalition is made up of consumer advocates, staffing experts, SEIU (Service Employees International Union) 1199 Rhode Island, Sista Fire, Fuerza Laboral, Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Organizing Project. Several caregivers talked about the need for adequate staffing in nursing homes.  A report prepared by Raise the Bar and made available to those in attendance found that numerous studies conclude that nursing homes have serious quality of care deficiencies that can be traced to a decrease in staffing.

“Rhode Island’s lack of staffing standards force caregivers to rush through the very basics of care tasks like feeding, bathing and dressing residents. Nursing staff do not have adequate time for answering questions or providing the type of social interaction with residents that is essential for maintaining quality of life.”

The coalition defines the issue as “the nursing home staffing crisis.”  It sets forth three easy steps to solving the crisis: A minimum staffing standard of 4.1 hours of direct care per resident per day; a raise in wages for caregivers and to recruit more staff; and to provide training opportunities for caregivers to match the increased complexity of resident care. 

The coalition urges people to spread the word of falls, lack of hygiene and insufficient staffing to family members and to contact legislators.

Stefania Silvestri of Warwick, a nurse, told of how she had found her aunt in tears due of the pain of being left alone on a toilet in a nursing home. She noted the home had only two to three staff to serve at least 31 residents and questioned how personnel could be expected to perform a variety of tasks – from combing hair and assisting with brushing teeth to washing and dressing patients, no less feeding them.

Amanda Sawyer described “extremely stressful” conditions where she worked third shift and was in charge of 24 beds. She said the home management disconnected bed alarms that alert staff when a resident has left a bed that made for quieter conditions yet required her to be constantly on the lookout.

“A fall can end somebody’s life,” she said. Additionally, she said she was forced to choose what policy to break in order to have enough time to serve each of her patients. In place of showers, she said she only had the time to “focus on hands, faces and butts,” and when another caretaker is absent “it means someone is not walking to dinner.”

“I had to quit my job, I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said.

Joe Pioletti
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