Today in my news feed a story comes up about a resident-on-resident assault in a memory care unit in Florida. It was bad. Two memory care patients, no staff nearby and a vicious attack – one man punched over 50 times.
The national news jumped on this, the terrible home that allowed this to happen has the highest rate of fines and disciplinary actions for the entire state. Incompetence at the highest levels of management and ownership! Where were the caregivers? How dare they hire staff members who cannot communicate properly with the residents? Why wasn’t this facility closed down by the state (following this incident there were apparently 2 fatalities of residents caused by neglect).
So for this 15 minutes of fame … attention to the plight (yes, plight) of our seniors in nursing facilities, the nation is outraged. People are asking how can we treat people like this? People are asking why didn’t the government step up? People are asking questions and I have a simple answer:
“Ask any doctor, nurse, cna – we’ve been saying it for years. We are understaffed! We are overworked! We are under appreciated!”
I dare anyone to spend time in a care facility and not notice how few caregivers there are and how many residents they each have to care for. Take a look at the number of times a resident uses their call light for attention. Watch caregivers rush around making sure all call lights are answered. Ask a caregiver when was the last time they skipped their lunch break because of resident needs. (Guarantee you that on average it will be harder for them to remember the last time they actually got their lunch break.)
I am hoping that we can generate enough outrage with this story and the thousands more out there. When people ask how could this happen I tell them, there is little to no regulation as to caregiver to resident ratios. Caregivers are low-payed and overworked.
Caregivers go into this field because they care about people and want to make a difference. What they get is overworked, harassed by management, abused by residents and families of residents, and no time to follow their calling: treat their charges as valuable human beings. Little wonder the good ones burn out.
So, why doesn’t the government pass better laws regarding safety, staffing ratios and other issues regarding care facilities? Well I wish I could point at the specific reason and say ‘That’s it’ but I cannot. I suspect there is the fact that these places are huge money earners for the owners, who may use their money to influence what laws are passed to regulate care facilities. I suspect that we as a culture in general have such a youth fixation that we seem to forget that someday we may be old, weak and feeble. Maybe it’s because we think that these are isolated incidents and isn’t reflected in most facilities. Perhaps because unless it’s OUR mom, dad, grandma or grandpa it just doesn’t seem like a big deal.
Whatever the reason, it is time to stand up and say “no more”. It’s time to start requiring lower resident to staff ratios. This is about resident safety. This is about caregiver safety. This is about being able to treat residents as whole human beings (with needs beyond feeding and basic hygiene). This is about creating a situation where a facility can get great caregivers and keep them!
I would link to the story (like I often do) but CNN released the story with a video taken by the facility (CCTV in the common room) and while someone has blurred the faces of the victim and attacker the faces of the other residents aren’t blurred and there’s this thing called HIPPA.