The leader of a national association of certified nursing assistants is warning that CNAs in nursing homes don’t have enough protective gear and are struggling to find the emotional support they need during the pandemic.
Lori Porter, CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, said nursing home CNAs are so overwhelmed with work, that sometimes they can’t wash their hands between patient emergencies.
“Every night, President Trump gets on TV and calls it a war,” she said. “It is war, and we are not prepared.”
At a nursing home in Brewster, nearly two-thirds of the residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
Porter said she spoke with a CNA in Indiana this week who worked a night shift alone with 35 residents, and yet nurse managers ask her why infection control surveys don’t show more hand washing.
“I said, ‘Do you want me to tell you the truth?’” she said, “And they said, ‘Yes, of course,’ and I said, ‘Well, if you have 27 residents, do you want them to stop and wash their hands before they keep your mom from falling off the toilet?’ Because that's the juggling act CNAs do in America.”
Some nursing home CNAs are being asked to re-use the same mask for a week, Porter said. And they’re doing it for an average of $13 an hour.
“They're struggling,” she said. “They can't hoard food when they go to the grocery store, if it were on the shelves. They don't have that kind of resources.”
Porter said CNAs are desperate for personal protective equipment, money, and support.
As of Sunday, COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities in Massachusetts accounted for 52 percent of the statewide death toll.
Porter does see a ray of hope, though: that when this is over, more people will understand the value of CNAs and their work.