Nursing home slaying reflects wider issues

Long-term care facilities may start getting a bad rep, especially in Toronto, where an elderly patient was slain this week.

The culprit, it would seem, is the shortage of nursing home staff, said the authorities. 

The killing of the dementia patient, allegedly by his roommate, at a nursing home in Toronto, Ontario, on Monday highlights a growing problem in Canada and the United States: There simply aren’t enough workers per patient to give quality care or to notice problems when they are brewing.

Working in long-term care is not easy. The hours are grueling and moving residents from place to place leads more nursing aides to suffer back and other injuries on the job, more injuries than are experienced in construction or fire departments, which are physically demanding jobs.

Nursing aides make an average of $12 an hour, but injury rates are high and the hours are long because of the shortage of workers. Turnover in the industry is about 75 percent, which, experts agree, makes it nearly impossible to offer quality nursing care.

A recent report by Indeed Inc. found that the number of U.S. nursing home aide jobs advertised in December was 10,922, up 120 percent from the previous year.

Demand will continue to grow as the Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to reach 73 million by 2030, up from 40 million in 2010.

To serve that growing population of elderly, the industry needs about 5 million more workers, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2010 levels.

Industry experts say the number of killings, neglect and other problems will continue to increase as long as nursing homes face worker shortages.

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