Judi Fonsh: Taking care of the care workers

Published: 10/20/2021 4:20:49 PM

There seems to be a silent crisis going on in our care systems. As we all know, the pandemic was extremely challenging to our long-term system of care, including the Soldiers’ Home of Holyoke — too many people died in the care of those institutions.

Now the news has gone silent, but the care is still a terrible problem, as there are too few to provide that important care. Nursing home staff numbers have been decimated for a wide range of reasons: we don’t show respect for the care that they give to maintain the health and well-being of those they provide care to in the vast array of facilities where they live.

Their poor wages are certainly a factor, but also it has primarily been women who have provided this fantastic care. During the pandemic, they had numerous reasons that they were unable to work, including child care, but also the disease itself, the lack of personal protective equipment, and the loss over five years of immigrants to this country, who were often willing to consider these jobs as a first step in entering our economy.

Child care must become available to all who need it so that they can be sure care is provided for them so that they then can provide care to others. It’s also really about the lack of dignity that these staff receive from us and the people they take care of each day. If we really cared about those we loved and therefore the care they receive, we would want to be sure these people receive a living wage as well as decent benefits, career ladders and ongoing support and training.

My understanding is that there are fewer staff who are working at nursing homes and that means those who live there are not getting the care they need, nor are the buildings being cared for as they should. If you know of situations that are unsafe for your family member or friend, call the ombudsman at your local area agency on aging — Highland Valley in the Northampton area , LifePath in Franklin County and North Quabbin area or Western Ma Elder Services for the Holyoke area. Or call the Department of Public Health complaint line to share a concern.

I don’t think that there has been the attention to this silent problem of not enough staff in facilities but also, in the community, there is not enough staff to provide the care that is needed to those who want to reside at home. We must advocate for a living wage and for respect for the work that they do.

Judi Fonsh


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