Senior living centers struggling with staff shortages

Facilities turning away new tenants due to staffing issues

Like most industries across the U.S., assisted living centers are also facing -- and struggling with -- staff shortages.

CHESTERFIELD, Mich. – Like most industries across the U.S., senior and assisted living facilities are facing -- and struggling with -- staff shortages.

As assisted care facilities operate with fewer staff than needed, some are being forced to turn away new tenants.

At the Village of East Harbor in Chesterfield, staff member Betsy Mianecki says it takes a lot of people to run a senior care facility as big as theirs -- but staffing is down drastically.

“We’ve had staffing shortages in the kitchen, we’ve had staffing shortages with our aides, I’ve had staffing shortages with activities,” Mianecki said.

“I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime,” said David Miller, the village’s executive director.

According to Miller, the facility is down 35 full-time positions, ranging from nurses to food service to ground crews. The biggest need is direct care workers, like nurses, nurse aides and resident aides.

Until facilities like the Village of East Harbor are able to secure more staff, some of their beds will remain empty.

“We have to slow down the admissions process and manage the people that are living here better with the staffing we have,” Miller said. “We haven’t closed anything down, but there are areas where there are several vacant rooms.”

Leaving beds open seems like an easy fix to the staffing problem, but it’s only a temporary solution. Long term, having empty beds is problematic when someone needs them.

“It’s tough to send people from the hospital to the nursing center because people can’t find enough staff to care for them,” Miller said. “They’re not able to find nursing homes that are available to send people.”

The Village of East Harbor is part of a larger nonprofit called the Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, which has 32 facilities in the state. Officials say every single one of their care centers is affected by staffing shortages.

And Miller says that despite competitive wages, good benefits, sign-on bonuses and paid training, there are still not enough applicants. Last year, Miller says that the coronavirus pandemic was, of course, a factor -- but not so much this year.

“Obviously there’s the vaccine available,” Miller said. “We can test people regularly to protect our seniors, so I don’t know that it’s a fear factor anymore.”

Staff members are multitasking while they await new applicants, but that can’t last forever. Miller says they just hope more workers come soon to what they call an extremely rewarding career.

See the full report in the video above.

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About the Author:

Nick joined the Local 4 team in February of 2015. Prior to that he spent 6 years in Sacramento covering a long list of big stories including wildfires and earthquakes. Raised in Sterling Heights, he is no stranger to the deep history and pride Detroit has to offer.