While long-term care facilities across the country have been hit hard by COVID-19, Iowa is higher than the national average for nursing home resident cases and deaths per capita, and nursing home staff cases per capita, according to federal data compiled by AARP. The state also is worse than the national average in the percentage of nursing homes that say they are short on staff and personal protective equipment for that staff.
“It is serious,” said Di Findley, executive director of Iowa CareGivers, a nonprofit that works to address shortages among direct care workers like certified nurse aides and home care aides. “The people who work in these jobs, the nurse aides, social distancing isn’t really an option. You can’t give somebody a bath or assist somebody to the toilet or help them with oral hygiene from six feet apart. Because of that, (those workers) are a little higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
“So they live in fear. They love their jobs, but they still live and work in fear now.”
Findley said direct care workers had been working in difficult conditions for years, before the pandemic hit in March. She said the positions are high turnover, and low-paying: she said the median salary for a direct care worker in Iowa is $13.80 per hour.
“They’re putting their lives on the line for $13.80 per hour,” Findley said. “Things were not good before, so you can imagine now, in the midst of a pandemic, how challenging it is for those folks on the front line, and their employers.”