Is the Shortage of Direct-Care Workers Affecting Ability Connection?

A colleague of mine shared this article with me. He asked if we were experiencing the same crisis and my response was “yes and no.” With the duration of the pandemic approaching one year, our issue has not been so much a challenge of hiring people as it has been keeping them healthy and available to work. Our seven group homes have awake staff in them whenever the residents are there. We can pay a reasonable wage and have good benefits. We implemented a career ladder in our residential program, enabling residential staff to advance in responsibility and salary without leaving their position. They progress through each level based on a combination of tenure and completing additional training. This has helped us to retain good and committed employees.

However, the pandemic has certainly put a strain on our capacity to ensure our homes are fully staffed. We serve a vulnerable population of people and, to their credit, the staff has been vigilant about their own symptoms and potential exposure to COVID. Some have tested positive with no symptoms and some have become sick with COVID. Inevitably, some of our residents tested positive for COVID, and we have had to follow quarantine protocol for them. Because of protocol, we also had to ensure the staff only worked at one home and did not work in multiple locations. For medical or other reasons, some staff members could not work in a home with positive COVID cases. Although we had enough residential staff “on the books,” so to speak, these challenges with COVID have resulted in shortages in staffing in the homes.

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “for the rest of the story” (apologies to you younger folks who didn’t listen to the legendary Paul Harvey). I have been absolutely amazed, humbled, and grateful for the response to these shortages by other residential staff, our Home Managers, and staff from other departments. So many people have stepped up to help make sure our residents are well cared for. For example, Dorothy and Uchenna, two staff who work in our ICF homes, told their boss that they would be available whenever needed and have helped. Our Home Managers, in addition to everything else, have covered many shifts. Our Training Center Staff have jumped in to assist and fill in where needed. Charles, Hukum, Ciera and other training center staff have assisted by filling in for sick and/or quarantined staff. Bottom line, we have had our challenges, but it is such an honor to work with this amazing group who have pulled together to insure continuity and safety for our residents.

We are in the process of vaccinating our residents and staff. Like everyone else, we will continue to navigate through this pandemic until we can reach a new normal, whatever that is.