When admitting a loved one into an assisted living facility, you want to make sure that they are receiving the best care possible from qualified nurses and caretakers. Unlike a hands-on, 24-hour care facility like a nursing home, assisted living facilities operate differently and have separate training requirements for their employees. Should you be worried? How much training do the caretakers and other staff actually receive? The unfortunate truth is that many of these people go through very minimal training, and may not be fully equipped to serve your
loved one’s needs.
In an assisted living facility, a clinical nursing assistant, or CNA, is the person who carries out all the day to day tasks necessary for taking care of the residents. They are the ones responding when a resident calls for help, they assist with bathing and toileting the residents, they feed the residents, and they make sure residents are properly accommodated. These assistants have a lot of responsibilities and tasks to manage, so you would hope that they are prepared for the job, right? Well, it might surprise you to know that in order to become a CNA, you only need 120 training hours, with only forty of those hours in clinical training. Those of you who have put a child through getting a learner’s permit know full well that it takes more than forty hours of something to become an expert, or even a reliable amateur.
There are other challenges for CNA’s as well besides limited training. Many CNA’s speak little to no English, which presents a language barrier. A lack of communication between a resident and their caretaker can make it challenging to get the resident exactly what he or she needs. Nursing homes are also notoriously understaffed, which means there are more residents than the CNA’s can manage. This results in overworked and underpaid CNA’s—most assistants make minimum wage, or close to it. As any senior can tell you, you get what you pay for, and when those on the front line for your loved one’s care are making minimum wage, it’s difficult to expect quality work in return.
The biggest problem may be that there are simply not enough CNA’s available to provide the right quality of care. In some cases, there can be one skilled care worker assigned to 200+ people. Assisted care facilities are ideally meant to be a “helping hand” for seniors (helping with medication, meal times, and housekeeping) as opposed to a 24 hour care facility, but when needs arise, an assisted care facility can be dangerously understaffed. There’s a lot to look for when evaluating living options for your loved one, but don’t neglect the level of training given to the first responders at the facility. It makes a world of difference in the day to day life of your parent, and the right match between caregivers and residents can be life-changing in a positive way for many families. Don’t neglect it.