Low CNA Pay Linked to High Turnover Rate, Poor Care

I recently read an interesting article about CNAs in nursing homes.  CNAs change adult diapers, clean soiled residents and help the elderly dress, eat and shower among other duties.  Unfortunately, these employees who handle so much of the daily, essential care needed by nursing home residents are underpaid.  The article states that the average pay for new CNAs is less than $8 an hour, only a dollar or so above minimum wage.

As a result of the low pay and demanding job description, CNA turnover is as high as 170 percent at some facilities.  Dale Patterson, vice president and chief financial officer of Evergreen Healthcare Management says about CNAs, “It’s hard work.  And on a relative scale (employees say) ‘I can flip hamburgers for the same pay or I can take care of old people with incontinence problems.’…So of course turnover is high.”  Gary Weeks, executive director of the Washington Health Care Association industry group says that many CNAs qualify for food stamps and other public benefit programs.

Low pay for CNAs also means lower quality of care for residents in nursing homes.  Facilities with high numbers of Medicaid patients report “losing” money because of low government reimbursements for such patients.  Less revenue means lower pay.  These facilities spend an average of 44 fewer minutes on direct care of patients each day, they have more patients spending most of their day in bed and a higher percentage of patients with pressure ulcers.  This adds pressure to the nurses who end up overmedicating residents or using chemical restraints.  Larry Minnix, President & CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging backs this theory up by stating “The best proxy for quality that we have is staffing.”

Starting pay for a CNA in upstate South Carolina has recently been increased about $8.50 per hour.