Being part of a caregiving team is something that anyone with experience in the field would view as a privilege. You get to help older adults stay independent, active, and purposeful, and you provide the help they need with their most intimate day-to-day tasks. You form close relationships with staff and residents, and the work — though daunting and emotional at times — is meaningful and fulfilling.
With that said, there are drawbacks that come with personal care work that drive employees to seek other opportunities. With our aging population living longer and facing more chronic conditions or diseases, the physical and emotional demands of caregivers become tougher. Without strong coping skills, caregivers can face increased stress levels and ultimately, employee burnout, which is a reason behind much of the assisted living employment turnover. Assisted living administrators can play a part in reducing these issues on their campus in a handful of ways. Take a peek at our mini-tutorial below on reducing employee turnover to learn more.
How Current Demographics Affect Senior Living Staff Turnover and Retention
Co-worker burnout is certainly a tough battle to overcome when we look at the long-term care industry, but current demographics are taking the turnover struggle to the next level.
The aging population continues to grow, but the caregiver population isn’t even close to keeping up. The demand to increase the direct care workforce has raised dramatically and is going to continue to grow. Government statisticians suspect an additional one million workers will be needed by 2026, which is an increase of 50% since 2014. On top of that, Americans who are 85 and older are projected to more than double in the next 30 years, making them 4.5% of the population in 2050 in comparison to 1.8% in 2010.
Part of this gap stems from our Baby Boomer population (about 76.4 million people) who had relatively few children. In turn, there are fewer people to care for them, whether relatives or paid caregivers. The other assisted living employment issue comes from our current economy and unemployment rate. While the unemployment rate in April of 2019 actually decreased to 3.6, the lowest it has been in the last 50 years, there are still concerns.
With a variety of job opportunities to choose from, many job seekers pass up low-paying caregiving positions. A report completed by the advocacy and research group, PHI, found that long-term care workers’ wages have had minuscule raises in the last decade. In fact, assisted living care workers earn a median wage of $11.03 an hour. Considering that a cashier at your local wholesale outlet, such as Costco, earns an average of $12.54 per hour, it’s easy to see why many potential employees accept positions elsewhere.
Immigration is another issue making an impact on assisted living employee turnover. Now, more than ever, we are limiting immigration into the U.S. and deportations have increased. All of this is happening as the growth of American-born direct caregivers is slowing down, which is a cause for concern. Currently, more than a quarter of caregivers are immigrants.
Assisted Living Employment Tips for Administrators
Knowing how to approach caregiver turnover and retention as an administrator can be tough and confusing. You may not be in a position to provide all the changes you desire in your community, but nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of what might drive staff to stick around and be a part of your long-term care team for the long haul. Use the following employee retention ideas to hire and retain your best, hard-working staff members.
A huge contributor to assisted living employee turnover is competitive pay. Staff members choose to leave existing positions in order to take on higher-paying jobs at expensive communities. Meanwhile, some facilities may be unable to afford a competitive match due to relatively low margins. Thankfully, trends show that the minimum wage is rising across the country, which could be a major help when it comes to turnover within the industry.
If your community is not equipped to increase caregiver wages, provide value in other ways such as:
- Allowing workers who have gained some skill and experience to be involved in different decision-making processes.
- Finding ways to help them further their education and be heard in the community.
- Incorporate incentive programs and retention bonuses to encourage staff longevity
- Be consistent in holding staff appreciation events
- Create time for co-workers to socialize and build relationships with other frontline staff as well as the management team.
Focus on Staff Development
Working as a caregiver in an assisted living facility promises a physical and emotional workload that may lack variety or room for growth. If this is the driving force for turnover in your community, you may also notice that residents could be dissatisfied with their lack of care if their caregivers have begun to lose passion for their work. Help caregivers to grow and maintain both their passion and knowledge by focusing on development programs and training. Administrators should consider:
- Making strides to fully understand employee needs and desires.
- Incorporating mentor programs for new hires.
- Offering comprehensive onboarding, followed by on-the-job skills training that is flexible and individual.
- Providing monthly in-services and trainings based on community needs and trends.
- Creating career paths that allow caregivers to take on new skills and responsibilities.
- Bringing speakers into the community to provide relevant healthcare seminars.
When it comes to employee development, making efforts to invest in your staff improves both resident and employee outcomes, especially as caregivers realize their development is valued by the leadership team. SeniorLivingU offers many educational resources for caregivers that will help strengthen your co-worker development programs. Whether you’re looking for short- and long-term care resources to in-depth segments on senior exercise, dementia, and health, SeniorLivingU provides a wealth of knowledge for individual caregivers looking to enhance their training. Plus, the resources are available in a variety of formats to best suit each caregiver’s learning needs.
Create a Culture of Civility
Caregivers are quick to report that they love working with residents and staff, but often don’t report the same positivity when it comes to their management team. Management must convey that they value their staff. Some tips for this include:
- Value Equality — Don’t speak down to employees. Remember that you are working alongside your team, not above them.
- Ensure Open Communication — Have an open door policy and encourage employees to talk with their manager when they have an issue to discuss.
- Create a Safe Environment — Use compassion and respect at all times. This will ensure your staff members feel they can be open and honest with you.
- Set Time Aside to Bond — Foster professional and personal bonds with staff, know them by name and take time to get to know them.
- Show Appreciation — Create and provide appreciation events to thank your staff for their exceptional work.
Do you have additional tips or resources for creating a culture of civility? Share them in the comments below!