A Great NY Times Article about CNAs

July 28th, 2010 by Linda Leekley in Good to Know!

Yesterday, the New York Times posted an article on its website entitled One Way to Judge a Nursing Home.  So, what’s that “one way’?  It involves talking to the nursing assistants at the nursing home and finding out how long they have been on staff.

The author of the article, Dale Russakoff, describes her experience of searching for a nursing home for her mother.  Here is some of what she has to say:

“In casual conversations in hallways and dining rooms at more than a dozen facilities, I found only one nurses’ aide who had been on the job more than six months. I was witnessing in real life one of the most dismal statistics in long-term care: More than 70 percent of nurses’ aides, or certified nursing assistants, change jobs in a given year.”

In studying the issue of CNA turnover, Ms. Russakoff came face to face with the ugly truth:

“Researchers have found that high turnover in a facility corresponds with poor quality of care — more bedsores and more use of restraints, catheters and mood-altering drugs. That is, more reliance on medicine and technology, less on relationships.

In nursing homes with high turnover rates, certified nursing assistants tend to leave within three months, often because of inadequate training and support to juggle multiple frail, ailing residents at a time, according to Robyn Stone,  senior vice president for research at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Once aides leave, everyone else must pick up their caseloads, and the stress of the job rises.”

Ms. Russakoff did find a nursing home where a number of the nurse aides were long time employees…and this is where her mother lived until her death.  One particular nursing assistant was especially memorable:

“Ericka Dickens had been there for nine years when she became my mother’s aide. She had the patience and experience to navigate my mother’s stormy moods as her dementia worsened, to notice immediately when she was feeling weak or sick. Sometimes I would arrive in the early morning to find Ms. Dickens sitting beside my mother, holding her hand and talking to her.

I asked [Ericka] what made her want to stay in the job all these years. She said she always felt respected and supported, but the anchor for her and others is the bond with residents.”

You can read the complete article here.

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