Not enough nurses in the nursing home – a daughter’s letter
Ensuring safe nurse-to-resident ratios in Aged Care will make a huge difference to the lives of many nurses, residents and their families. Tell us your aged care story here.
To whom it may concern,
My name is Belinda, I am a single mother of two and live with my adult intellectually handicapped cousin who I am carer for.
I was also caring for my mother, who survived a stroke after having life saving surgery. It was hard doing it on my own but I managed because of the love I have for them. One day my mum decided she was going to put herself into a nursing home because she didn’t want to be a burden on me any more.
I accepted my mother’s wishes and she went into an aged care centre in western Sydney. Beautiful, clean, hotel-style living, no dirt, no messy smells, it is lovely. Mind you, it took me 12 months to accept that, but I did in the end.
My mum has been there for five years and we have always said the nursing staff is so good but there are not enough of them. And for five years we have been told they are adequately staffed.
We’ve seen residents come and go – you become close to them and their families and watch their everyday struggles when they get to the point that they can’t feed themselves, walk, talk or interact with others, till one day you don’t see them any more and later find out they’ve passed away.
Today there are 30 residents in the High Care ESU Unit and four nurses. Now my mother is at the stage in her life where she can no longer walk, she talks differently, granted because of the stroke, she has only two fingers she can barely move, but she still has her wits and sense of humour.
I have now put my 100 percent caring for my kids and cousin on hold to go every day to help feed my mother, because four nurses is not enough for 30 high care residents. Six of the residents need to be fed because they can’t feed themselves. Then you have someone wanting to be toileted. Some people still need to be showered. One nurse is supposed to be on the floor at all times.
Now forgive me, but there are a few family members of other residents who have asked the same thing and every time I say to them what is told to me – they’re adequately staffed.
So recently while I have been there for sometimes four to five hours a day, I’ve discovered that 30 residents in the High Care Unit are not adequately staffed with four nurses.
If you spent a couple of days out here and saw for yourself, I would 100 percent guarantee you would say the same thing. Between 6am and 1pm is the busiest time where the showers need to be done, beds need making, feeding and toileting where some residents need two nurses.
Sometimes it gets so frustrating for the nurses they take out their frustrations on the residents.
The point is even the nurses have said we are too busy and you’re going to have to wait. Now when you’re in a nursing home and need to go to the toilet, you can’t wait, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
By the time the resident gets to the toilet there’s a mess to clean up, which then takes up more time for the nurses.
I was always under the assumption that when you go into a nursing home you’re supposed to be cared for to the point you feel safe and loved. I guess I was wrong. Everyone knows when you go into a nursing home it’s the end of the line and they should be able to live out the rest of their days feeling happy and safe and secure. When some get bullied, it makes them feel less of a person, humiliated.
The hot meals that are made for them are cold by the time a resident who can’t feed themself gets fed.
I’m talking about all nursing homes – I’m just using this one as an example as I’m having this disturbing experience in it.
Why is it all hush hush when we talk about this subject at meetings?
Who says how many nurses work?
Is it the fewer nurses that work, the more money for the decision maker?
Who and how do you work out how many residents equals one nurse?
Do any of the decision makers even have a loved one with a disability in a nursing home?
If there are nurses that are off, whether it be sick, injured, holidays, whatever, and there is only one fulltime nurse on and the rest are casuals who have no idea how to do everything, then that one nurse is under a considerable amount of stress because she has to go help the casuals. I have witnessed this with my own eyes.
Something needs to be done about this situation. Not all elderly people that go into a nursing home need just one nurse, some are so badly disabled that over time they are in need of two nurses, like my mum. And most of the time now she is missing out on the activities or late because there is not enough staff or time to put her on and off the toilet.
And if this is happening to my mum I can only imagine how it would be for the others.
I am a loving and caring person and it breaks my heart to witness this every day and if I don’t speak up for all the residents and nurses, what hope do they have?
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I hope something changes so that these elderly people who have no choice but to spend the rest of their days in a nursing home can feel safe and happy as they are paying a lot of money for what is supposed to be great care.
If you have an experience you’d like to share, please get in touch here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether it was something that occurred in a single shift or about you’re entire career so far, we want to know.
More information on aged care staffing:
- Read the national report on Aged Care Staffing Levels and Skills Mix Project December 2016.
- Like the Aged Care Nurses Facebook Page
- Solutions from the frontline – Practical approaches to reduce the risk of abuse in aged and disability services (2016)
- ‘Who will keep me safe? – Elder Abuse in Residential Aged Care (2016)