Losing nursing home is a devastating blow

The headline on the front page of this issue of the Custer County Chronicle screams it: the nursing home run by Monument Health in Custer is going to close. Although there is no firm date as to when the nursing home will close, just the fact that it is eventually going to close is a huge blow to this community.
A nursing home is just something every town needs. It gives loved ones the opportunity to have a place they can put loved ones for whom they can no longer care. Ideally, the nursing home in which they put their loved ones is in the same town. This allows family members the chance to see that loved one to stop in whenever they want. If the nursing home is miles away, they aren’t afforded that opportunity. At least not as often.
When the rumors started to circulate that Monument Health was headed down this path (at first we were told they merely wanted to cut back, not close it altogether) people were quick to ask us to investigate. So, we did. What we found is not Monument Health complaining the facility is hemorraging money, but rather, it cannot find enough employees to properly staff the facility. Not enough employees. It’s a common theme in Custer, around the United States, and especially in the world of nursing homes.
An article at assistedliving.org states care provided in nursing homes can often be found lacking, due to high occupancy rates and a lack of nursing home specialists and qualified nurses. It’s the latter, not the former, holding back Custer’s facility. All of the beds within the facility aren’t even being used due to the lack of the staff, so we know it’s not an occupancy issue.
The nursing shortage across the U.S. is a result of many factors, including an aging workforce, with over a third of nurses being aged 50 and older and many retiring every day. Another reason behind a lack of skilled nurses in certain areas is the high turnover rate due to burnout, especially in a long term care setting; some areas see a turnover rate of 37 percent. Providing that type of care is hard, hard work, and it’s not the highest paying job in the world. It’s a rewarding job, to be sure, but it’s not easy. It’s not one just anybody can do.
So what is the answer? Maybe another company can open another nursing home. It seems critical we have one. But what if the new one can’t find employees, either? Perhaps there could be a smaller facility?
There are no easy answers. I’m sure city officials are working hard to see what can be done. Custer needs a nursing home. How we get there is tough to figure out.

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