You know what sucks? The pay. I make less than a dollar above minimum wage. Let's let that sink in. I'm someone who spends 8 hours a day feeding, toileting, grooming, talking with, dressing, and ambulating people with dementia. I notice changes in condition and report them to my charge nurse. I make sure their oxygen is on and at the correct flow setting. I chat with their family members, and update them on how their loved one is doing.
Most of my coworkers are on food stamps or some other form of public assistance. All of the ones who are single parents are.
The average cost per resident at an Assisted Living facility in my state is a lot of money per month. Remember, I'm in the Pacific Northwest:
The place I work at is always at least 95% occupied. We provide really good care to our residents (and their family members). The management is fair and reasonable. But we make just above a poverty wage, depending on how many people are in our households.
If my husband didn't earn any money, we'd be screwed. A lot of my coworkers also clean houses or do one-on-one care as a second job.
I don't know what the solution is here. Obviously individual families can't afford to pay more rent for their loved ones. Medicare subsidizes some of our residents, but some are private pay.
I don't have a solution for the whole system, but for myself, it's to get my ass back in school. I have a BA in Psychology, but found that I really don't enjoy the type of work in that field that a BA qualifies me for - it's direct care with very difficult populations. Tried it out, hated it, was unhappy, and fled to childcare instead. Then we relocated and I started working with seniors and have really enjoyed that.
I recently found out that I can do an advanced baccalaureate program to convert my BA into a BSN in just 5 quarters. As long as I complete my prereqs at community college first and get good grades in those. HALLELUJAH! My backup plan will still be to go to a technical college and get my LPN, but for almost the same amount of time, I could get my BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and be qualified to be an RN.
So that's my big goal of 2011. Get into school. Take my prereqs that I'm missing (microbiology, anatomy and physiology with lab, etc.). Because as much as I love my job and the people I care for there, I don't want to get stuck being broke forever.
So I won't.