Nursing home staffing levels need to be higher | Guest op

  • Thursday, May 18, 2017 5:30pm
  • Opinion

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a caregiver-staffing requirement that would improve direct-care ratios to prevent resident neglect and unsafe working conditions for caregivers. But like many laws, it hasn’t worked quite as intended, and staffing levels in our nursing home are still inadequate to protect quality care

There are more than 70,000 seniors in King County and the number only keeps growing. The Legislature must continue improving Washington’s nursing homes by raising caregiver-staffing levels. As a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who’s worked in nursing homes for the past 20 years, I know first-hand that more staff is needed to allow caregivers to meet the physiological, mental and physical needs of each resident.

The best step forward is for the Legislature to use any additional state funding for nursing homes to lift the caregiver-staffing requirements and remove loopholes that prevent it from working properly.

The official language is “Caregiver Hours Per Resident Per Day,” or HPRD, which is now at 3.4 per diem. But this number includes administrative-staff hours, meaning staffers who don’t provide direct care to residents. As a result, certified nursing assistants and caregivers are still finding themselves in situations where there is not enough staff to meet residents’ needs.

Increasing the requirement to 4.1 caregiver hours per day, the staffing level recommended by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a practical solution to fixing these types of situations.

Many residents at nursing homes suffer from serious medical conditions that require specialized direct care. Right now, CNAs can still have up to 16 residents who need care, which means not everyone gets the quality care they need or deserve.

Nursing-home staffers have all had residents who either receive too few visitors or have no living relatives. It’s situations like these when having more staff would make a real difference in people’s lives. This one-on-one time from caregivers is the difference between just being kept alive and leading a good life. At times, I have heard my fellow caregivers express fears about not being there when a resident with no family or friends dies.

These are not just my observations and experiences. Studies have shown that an increase in hours of daily care yields benefits ranging from better health outcomes for residents to fewer injuries for direct-care providers. The Legislature would be wise to increase the HPRD in Washington’s nursing homes.

Washington state made significant gains when daily care hours were increased to 3.4 per resident, but we still have a long way to go. The Legislature can help ensure quality care for residents if they set a better standard and increase the current minimum.

Linda Long is a certified nursing assistant and community advocate who lives in Kent.

More in Opinion

Viadoom looms

Closure, demolition of

Boeing hopes to build upon record year | Brunell

Last year, a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) global study of aerospace manufacturing attractiveness found… Continue reading

New year will bring a new libraries, opportunities

On Jan. 16, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary as the King… Continue reading

Lawmakers aim to revisit, scrutinize how Sound Transit works

Sound Transit should count on getting a share of attention from state… Continue reading

Dawgs, Cougs get ready for their bowl battles

Pac-12 schools hope to bring home wins

New idea: Carbon fee for transportation, environmental work

State Sen. Steve Hobbs is hiking solo on what seems an impossible… Continue reading

Reporter newspaper group moving offices to Federal Way

Dear reader As 2018 comes to an end, your local media organization… Continue reading

Guns, helmets and soju proposals queued up for 2019 session

In an annual rite, lawmakers are already putting bills in the hopper they want to debate next year.

Returning to take on the nonsense and frustration of social media

A few months ago I wrote a column explaining how I was… Continue reading

Good economic news sprinkled with caution | Brunell

The good news is Washington’s revenues continue to grow and projections for… Continue reading

Inslee for president? | Shiers

Governor hasn’t officially said anything amid the rumors

Cost, availability of health care poses a primary concern | Brunell

When Congress convenes next year, lawmakers must focus on the cost and… Continue reading