Who’s caring for the nursing home carers?
Many of us have moms and dads or older friends and relatives in nursing home facilities. We care very much about their well-being and the supports they receive. But who’s caring for the care aides who do the bulk of the front-line work in nursing homes? Their welfare is almost entirely overlooked in the health system. And the health of the care aide affects the quality of care they deliver.
Care aides, also known as nurses aides, personal support workers or continuing care assistants, are the largest workforce in nursing homes in Canada. Research suggests between 75 and 90 per cent of direct care to residents is provided by care aides, including physical care, such as helping those they care for to eat, bathe and dress, as well as emotional care and social interaction. Their role is central to the quality of care and quality of life of nursing home residents.
Yet up until recently, we’ve known little about them. When the health force is studied at all, typically care aides and registered nurses are lumped together, even though their job functions are distinct, and their educational, social and ethnic backgrounds, as well as their positions in the hierarchy of the health-care workforce, are often significantly different.