Care home hiring residents' family members to fill staffing shortages during pandemic
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Faced with a COVID-19 outbreak, the CEO of Menno Place in Abbotsford has been scrambling to fill staffing shortages.
“Now we’ve got 16 positive residents and 16 positive staff, so staffing has become an urgent issue,” said Karen Biggs.
So she decided to reach out to families with loved ones in the care home to see if they would want to temporarily work in areas like housekeeping, laundry or dietary services.
“(There are a) couple advantages,” she said. “Firstly, they passionately care about Menno Place. The other advantage is if their person is living in our home, they actually get to see them on their breaks.”
Since the care home posted the job ad a few days ago, 48 family members have applied for positions.
One of them is Lynn Smith, who used to visit her husband all the time, until the pandemic changed everything.
“I was at home feeling powerless, unhelpful … so what I decided is there’s got to be something I can do. I can be of some assistance,” she said.
Volunteers aren’t currently allowed inside care facilities, so she has applied for one of the jobs, hoping she can take some of the pressure off staff and see her husband as well.
Family members at other B.C. care homes wish they were offered the same opportunity.
“It just shows that people are so desperate to be with their family members, they’ll do anything,” said Sheila Schmidt, whose 89-year-old mother lives in a Victoria care home.
Schmidt says before the COVID-19 lockdowns, she would help her mom with care on a daily basis.
When the pandemic began, Schmidt – a registered nurse with 35 years experience – started looking for job postings in her mom’s care home. When a job came up, she applied.
Initially, she said, she was offered the job. Then, the facility changed its mind.
“Unfortunately, they refused to hire me, saying it would be unprofessional and I would be crossing personal boundaries,” she said, adding that she disagrees with that reasoning.
Biggs said she’s not sure why another care home would make that decision.
“We don’t generally put the person working on the unit where their parent is, but we absolutely hire family members all the time,” she said.
Biggs said even before COVID-19, finding enough workers was a huge challenge nationwide.
“Housekeeping staff are very hard to find,” she said. “There’s not even programs around any more. Care aides are hard to find. Nurses are hard to find.”
During the election, the BC NDP promised to hire 7,000 workers for seniors’ facilities. One thousand have been hired so far.
The premier says the hirings are part of a long-term plan.
“We need to do some training. In many cases, we’re trying to do that in an expedited manner,” Premier John Horgan said in response to a question from CTV News Vancouver.
Menno Place is currently reviewing applications, hoping family members can fill the gap in caring for vulnerable seniors.