HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Dozens rallied in the capital city on Thursday to call on the state to improve the quality of life for nursing home residents.
The people who took care of the pandemic’s most vulnerable population are demanding the state take care of them.
In attendance was a woman who works at a nursing home in Colchester. She told News 8 she takes care of 22 patients at a time and has become so burnt out, she’s leaving.
“You’re not cared about, the people you care for are not cared about,” said Paulette Belin, a CNA at Complete Care at Harrington Court.
The pandemic worsened existing nursing home problems which led to severe staffing shortages and an increase in patients, impacting the quality-of-care patients receive.
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According to the American Health Care Association over 210,000 nursing home employees left during the pandemic, leading to the lowest workforce since 1994.
Belin has seen the challenges grow over 43 years. She told News 8 she finally reached her limit.
“You’re physically burnt out. You’re mentally burnt out. You’re emotionally burnt out. It’s emotional. I just can’t do [it] anymore. I’m broken,” Belin said.
Belin is retiring earlier than planned. She said she’s tired- working 100-hour weeks, taking care of four times the patients she should be and the pay does not match the stress.
“You’re depending on people and no one shows up. When I drive to work sometimes the parking lot is empty and I’m like, ‘I know I’m going to be by myself,’” Belin said.
New legislation aims to help by establishing a minimum staffing level across the state’s nursing homes, increasing the minimum time with a resident to 4.1 hours of care and requiring transparency for how that money is being spent.
“Have ample training, give them the tools to do their job and better pay,” said Rep. Jane Garibay, of the House Co-Chair Aging Committee.
Nursing homes that fail to comply will face a $10,000 dollar fine.
“We need to staff these places better. I think they need to hold the owners accountable. I think they need to pay workers a livable wage because just like we’re taking care of someone’s family, we have family to take care of too,” Belin said.