Nursing home exec: Workers need to be paid more, infrastructure needs to change
Rick Gamache heads up Aldersbridge Communities, a group of four nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Rhode Island. He says it plain and simple – he thinks our society is ageist.
“Just as our society doesn’t value elders, they don’t tend to value people who care for elders,” he says.
He thinks the pandemic has further revealed crucial infrastructure flaws in elder care services, one of them being underpaid staff.
“What happens is many of those people have to work two full time jobs and that sometimes makes them more susceptible as a potential carrier for this virus,” he says.
He calls nursing home workers the unsung heroes of the pandemic.
“When the Department of Health first gave us guidance about saying ‘all high touch areas need to be cleaned every 4 hours’, I met with the housekeepers and said ‘okay, this is what they want you to do,’ and they said, ‘well we’re cleaning those high touch areas every 30 minutes.’ They are saving lives.”
He says workers deserve more money. But slashes to nursing home funding often means lower salaries. Another key problem is the way nursing homes are designed. Gamache says they weren’t designed to care for people with infectious diseases.
“We put them into these situations and say it’s ok for them to share a room. It really isn’t. No 85-year-old wants to share a room with a complete stranger,” he says.
He hopes this pandemic could be the spark that ignites change.
“Right now it’s in the forefront of people’s minds. People are saying ‘why are all these people dying? How do we prevent it?’ Well I’m telling you there’s the two ways you can prevent it,” Gamache says.