!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Pay Matters

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pay Matters

I'm back from my trip to Maryland to help my twin brothers move my father into an assisted living apartment near the condo where he had been since 1977. At last report, Dad was still unhappy with the change. Though he has been evaluated as needing assisted living 24/7, he believes he's capable of living on his own, including continuing to drive.

One of my brothers and his wife did the legwork of finding a suitable spot for him, and now we have our fingers crossed that the staff of the new place provide good care and attention. My father and I have already made the acquaintance of a resident down the hall, an 89-year-old widower who graduated from the Naval Academy five years before my father.

Captain S. has been living at the assisted living facility for three years, so he seemed like a good person to ask about what residents actually experience day-to-day. His response was reasonably encouraging — he indicated that the care was satisfactory, if not exactly meticulous.

He did complain that many of the caregivers are not smart. My immediate reaction was predictable: These people aren't paid much. Attracting and retaining individuals with high skill has to be extremely tough. Hunting around on the Internet led me to conclude that the typical wage for direct-care staff in the DC area is around $10.50 (pdf source).

For someone as obviously intelligent as the Captain, to expect the cream of the intellectual crop when paying so little seemed quixotic. In fact, the second time he made the comment about the dim staff he had to deal with, his private caregiver (a very capable women who had also cared for his wife before she died) whispered, "It's the money."

The moral of the story: Managers at an assisted care facility are faced with a challenging balancing act. They have to keep staff motivated and engaged, while controlling wages as part of an overall responsibility to hold the rates residents pay at a level that keeps the facility filled and running in the black.

As with any organization, the importance of training, both of managers and staff, cannot be overstated. In the case of staff, the potential for improving a low-skilled person's capabilities is substantial, so long as necessary motivators, such as a respectful work environment, are in place.