Certified nursing assistants that bathe, dress and provide 95% of the care to residents at New Jersey nursing homes may get some help from Gov. Phil Murphy.  An identical bill cleared the state Legislature two years ago but was vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie.

Legislation is progressing that will increase of staffing levels of these unlicensed caregivers.  Under the proposed law, nursing homes would have staffing ratios to meet: Facilities would be required at a minimum to having one certified nursing assistant on staff for every eight residents on a morning shift, no more than 10 per aide in the afternoon and no more than 16 per aide overnight.  This is great news for the residents and caregivers in New Jersey.

By the way, South Carolina only requires ratios of at least 1 CNA to 9 residents on first shift; 1 CNA to 13 residents on second shift; and 1 CNA to 22 residents on third shift.  This were established in the mid-1980s and are now considered insufficient and unsafe.  That is why the regulations include the following language:  “Additional staff members shall be provided if the minimum staff requirements are inadequate to provide appropriate care and services to the residents of a facility.”

The legislation would send a message to nursing home operators “that they need to staff adequately in their facilities,” given that the Garden State ranks among the bottom in the nation for average nursing aide staffing-hours per patient.

Several states have passed similar staffing ratio laws but they need to pay a living wage so the jobs are attractive to qualified and compassionate caregivers.  “Despite how difficult it is, it’s a very low paying job — with many (nursing assistants) only making $12 or $13 per hour,” CNA Lloyd-Bollard said. “It’s not right that caregivers have to do two or three jobs to make ends meet. These are the people responsible for caring for our state’s most vulnerable people; we should support them.”

Jeanitha Louigene, a certified nursing assistant of 27 years, is certain it’s having an effect on the quality of care provided by nursing facilities. “I really feel sorry for the residents,” she said. “With the amount of residents we have at once, we really don’t have time for them — they may want to talk, but we can’t do that. We have one person taking care of sometimes 15 or more residents, who are needing the bathroom, water or are in pain. We have multiple people calling for us. But we can only be in one place at one time.”

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