The caregivers are exhausted, tense and continually thinking about finding another job.

For as long as I can remember Walmart, the place everyone likes to shop because of low prices, (I know not everyone) has endured perpetual criticism for taking advantage of workers at the low end of the spectrum (perhaps even a fair complaint) then a few days ago I received this email:

I just read an article of yours published 26 March 2013 titled: “If your staff turnover rate is average, you’re doing a terrible job”. This article has more meaning to me today as my daughter has been working at a medium sized AL community as a caregiver for almost 6 months.  This community is owned by a good sized regional operator.

In this article, one of the bullet points was: “You have to pay a decent wage and provide adequate benefits. It is true that studies are universal in demonstrating that pay is not the biggest motivator yet, if you provide substandard pay you will only get and keep substandard employees”. We all know that the caregivers are the up-front representation of the company who have the most contact with residents. A heavy turnover of caregivers gives every resident a bad taste.

Apparently this is one company that hasn’t gotten the message. 

But let me ask, “What is a decent wage”?

In this company, they hire caregivers at minimum wage. They schedule shifts so no one can get enough time to be considered in any way full-time. There are no benefits. Most are single women who need a job badly. Even with no benefits, there is not enough work time or pay for these employees to be able to get their own health insurance.

 The daytime caregiving staffing ratio is 32:1. Many of these people may need only minimal care, but assisting dressing and toileting even half of them before breakfast (which the caregiver also serves), and then begin the bathing routines puts a real time squeeze on the caregivers. The caregivers are exhausted, tense and continually thinking about finding another job. They enjoy working with the residents but management seems to have no problem with hiring more and more desperate job-seekers to replace the more and more who keep quitting. And they wonder why residents leave as well.

This place gets good market rates for their rooms and services so it’s not as if they can’t afford to treat the caregivers better. From my perspective, there’s far too many of these kind of employers in the senior living industry and their treatment of these hands-on employees ends up being bad PR in the long run. (Bold and Link mine)

I will confess this was a pretty discouraging email to receive about an industry that I love.  It is hard to fathom having a cadre of line staff “living with” (or more accurately barely surviving) in a state of constant job and income insecurity.  How can they possibly do a bang up job of caring for residents. I am not quite sure how to respond to his email because it is a question that embarrasses me.  How would you answer his email? Steve PS:  I would also note there are companies that are doing it right and I have written about several of them. Here are two: Would You Give Your Company Away to Your Employees? Is This Any Way to Run a Senior Living Company?

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