The emotional and physical cost of caring for others is a heavy burden. Long-term care communities rely on their employees to keep things running smoothly and provide residents with the highest quality of care. Yet, essential workers have persevered through trying times over the last three years and deserve continuous praise and innovative approaches to the important work they do every day.
One thing’s for sure though—those who work in the senior care ecosystem have always been ‘essential’. These caregivers don’t only include clinical physicians, nursing staff, psychotherapists, OT/PT, and patient care techs, but also administration, janitorial and transportation staff, housekeepers, cooks, and maintenance personnel. These workers handle a range of services that are vital in the continuity of care for our elderly population.
As the senior care workforce continues to feel daily challenges in a post-pandemic world, and as turnover becomes a greater threat, improving the employee experience and boosting their mental health can help attract, engage, and retain staff.
Essential Caregiver Challenges
The last few years heavily impacted the senior care industry and the spirits of those who work in it. The strain that COVID-19 put on nursing staff, in particular, was undeniable. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities lost a record number of residents and staff to COVID-19. Aside from the death tolls, employees dealt with more stressful disruptions to their day than ever before.
They coped with little or no extra resources against the virus while caring for the most vulnerable. They incurred heightened exhaustion, PPE shortages, dehydration from constant N95 masks and shields, and little time for breaks. They were also left to try and answer questions from scared residents that no one knew answers to, like how the virus was contracted and transmitted. On a personal level, they worried every day they would bring the virus home to their loved ones or bring it back to an elderly resident at work.
Pair that worry with workers who don’t always feel valued, and the overall community culture took a hit. When employees don’t know they are appreciated, they are less likely to interact with other staff or go above and beyond in showing a high standard of care. That can translate to more disengagement with residents, which can impact the care they provide.
The Burden Leads to Burnout and Turnover
Skilled nursing facilities, especially, are facing insurmountable challenges when it comes to the well-being of their staff and residents. Nursing burnout rates are soaring with an enormously high turnover rate as a result. High staff turnover means there is a revolving door of caregivers, increasing the workload on those that stay, and leaving residents with newcomers that are unfamiliar with their preferences and needs.
Add to that the new ‘normalcy’ of being confined to rooms and clothed in PPE was anything but normal, and came with profound psychological impacts. Social isolation, anxiety, and depression not only plagued senior residents, but everyone in long-term care communities.
Mental Health America found that 93% of healthcare workers are experiencing stress, 86% reported experiencing anxiety, 77% reported frustration, 76% reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75% said they are overwhelmed.
These challenges forced many to burn out fast or leave their job altogether, but the industry has been facing a workforce shortage long before COVID-19. Population ageing is outpacing the number of senior caregivers, where one in six adults will be over the age of 60 by 2030.
That is why it’s important to not only care for residents but for the staff that provides essential care to them, so it becomes a more desirable occupation to join and stay with.
Using Technology for a Brighter, Happier Future for Caregivers
Implementing new technology, such as telehealth, drove better behavioral healthcare access and outcomes for residents. The same can be true for caregivers. Caregivers provide care, so it’s not easy for them to admit there is a mental health issue, and conversely, not easy to accept these “heroes” are facing them.
Senior Care leaders need to step in and identify employee burnout, recognize workplace burdens, and take proactive steps for treatment. A balanced approach of provisions like employee assistance programs, better access to mental health treatment, and improved communication will turn into long-term strategies for a healthier, happier essential workforce.
Reinventing the Caregiver Experience with MediStaffCare
Opportunities exist for employers to improve workforce challenges, including reshaping the caregiving experience. As senior care needs and business models evolve in a changing, aging world, communities need to invest in their workforce.
The staff at these facilities are experiencing repeated exposure to illness and suffering at an unprecedented level. Without access to mental health treatment, emotional distress can be exacerbated. This can then lead to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse.
The team at MediTelecare understands these risks and has launched MediStaffCare in response.
MediStaffCare can be leveraged by frontline workers at a time and place that is safe and convenient for them. These televideo sessions not only help to minimize the risk of office visits but allows these individuals to address their own wellness needs with mental health providers who understand the struggles they face daily.
Meditelecare empowers frontline workers with behavioral telehealth services and a safe harbor to not only make their jobs more manageable but deal with the emotional toll they take on every day.
Nurses are senior care’s greatest asset and primary caregivers. Their dedication in times of crisis or times of normalcy shows how much their resilience and skills are unwavering, and their caring spirits are worthy of recognition and support.
Meditelecare can help your community offer a higher quality of care and improve its reputation as a community of choice. With access to MediStaffCare, staff experience less burnout because their mental health needs are looked after. They feel valued, so your essential workers can concentrate on what matters most, delivering world-class care to your residents.
Listen to Meditelecare’s Dr. Eden Brown discuss the challenges in the Skilled Nursing Community, or reach out for more information.