The shortage of nursing home workers is caused by low pay, the working conditions at many nursing homes, and the lack of benefits especially health insurance. Nursing home work is harder than most; it involves lifting, bathing, cleaning up after our elders who can’t manage on their own so well anymore. Another reason is that workers have plenty of other options to work for minimum wage. Nationally, just 3.5% of the workforce is unemployed, the lowest in roughly 50 years.
Nursing homes are desperate for staff at all levels, from registered nurse to certified nursing assistant, a job that doesn’t necessarily even require a high school diploma. For nurses, it’s scary to have so few of them on each shift, and many flee to work at places that aren’t so understaffed.
The economy will decline and shift in favor of nursing home employers, but demographics will exacerbate this particular staff shortage for at least a decade or two. Soon, the huge generation of Americans born in the baby boom after World War II will start entering nursing homes. The later generations that make up the work force are smaller, and therefore the ratio of people of nursing home worker age (18 to 64) to senior citizens (65 and older) has shrunk rapidly.
Meanwhile, lobbyists are pushing a bill that would require “safe staffing” levels at all nursing homes. Most experts and consumer advocates contend that a minimum of 4.1 is needed for safe staffing.