I work in a retirement home. Our industry is suffering.

Retirement homes and assisted living facilities have been hit hard by COVID-19. Although cases have declined, we are now forced to deal with another epidemic: staffing shortages.

We have witnessed a massive departure of staff from retirement homes. Burnout and continued exposure to the virus are some of the reasons for the exodus. Today, the increase in travel missions compounds the problem.

According to the report of The Washington Post, nearly 420,000 workers have left nursing homes since February 2020. Many of these workers were poorly paid care workers, the mainstay of the nursing home workforce. Some staff have left the profession altogether and others have traded employees who pay travel allowances.

As a society, we are morally obligated to care for our elderly, but it has become increasingly difficult to provide quality care as care home staff are paid half the amount traveling CNAs earn. . I personally know of two CNAs who went from $14 per hour as staff to $30 per hour as travel CNAs.

Most of the caregivers I work with are immigrants, and it goes without saying that we came here to work and earn money, money for our upkeep here, but most importantly to send home to family. When an opportunity arises to be able to make more money, it would be foolish not to take it.

The seniors we care for thrive on familiarity and stability, especially those with cognitive impairments. We try to create an atmosphere of familiarity to reduce stress and anxiety not only for residents, but also for their families. Imagine visiting your elderly mother or father in a care facility and seeing the same faces for years. It’s part of what makes the job rewarding from a caregiver’s perspective and helps families sleep at night knowing that their loved one is in good, caring and capable hands.

When I joined my company in 2018, there were people who had worked there since its inception in 2009. Many of these employees knew the business well, but most importantly, they had established good rapport with the residents and their families. With the outbreak of the virus in 2020, the harmony has faded. Some families moved their parents out of care homes and some staff left for better opportunities.

The Migration Policy Institute reported in 2020 that approximately 6 million immigrants nationwide work in frontline occupations such as food production, healthcare and transportation, making us more susceptible to COVID-19. . We didn’t have the privilege of sheltering in place and working from home, but we risked our lives to care for elderly American citizens. This is not a request for alms or government aid. It is a call for equality and fair pay.

Therefore, my petition to help solve the problem of staffing shortages is for the government to ensure that nursing home staff members are fairly and adequately compensated. As the cost of living rises, the salary is also expected to rise, and this could be achieved by providing funding to nursing homes and nursing facilities across the country.

Employers like mine genuinely care about their caregivers, but keeping pace with travel expenses is beyond their financial capabilities. They need help, and that funding could be conditional on facilities meeting standards of care and committing to increasing the staff-to-resident ratio. Such homes and facilities would be in great demand and the geriatric population would once again receive the quality care they need.

Anita K. Mupingo is a social work student at Texas Woman’s University. She lives in Anna. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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Maria D. Ervin