The American Health Care Association established National Nursing Home Week in 1967. For 50 years, the designation has provided a dedicated time frame to remind people — residents, of course, but especially their friends and families — just how much long-term facility staff and volunteers do for those in their care.
The week always starts on Mother's Day, which is appropriate given that the majority of nursing home residents are women. The radio of women to men is 7:1 or greater, depending on the source.
The aids, nurses and social workers caring for these people now tend to be women, too — and some of those providing direct, daily care don't earn all that much: The average certified nursing assistant makes $11.40, according to www.payscale.com. Look no further than the help wanted signs offering $12-14 at local fast food chains and you get an idea of the challenge that nursing home administrators face in trying to attract and keep good help.
Of course, women of the generation currently living in these facilities provided the majority of caregiving for their families. Sometimes they went from raising children to caring for aging grandparents and then parents. They did it out of love.
The people who make a career in long-term care do so out of love, too. They are among the most compassionate individuals you will ever meet. Their career is really a calling.
National Nursing Home Week provides an opportunity for each of us to to recognize the role that workers provide in caring for our loved ones. We would do well to honor them with a personal word of appreciation, a thank-you card and a little lobbying at the state and national levels for better pay.