Faced with chronic staffing shortages, one Canadian nursing home is deploying volunteers to help out during mealtime.
The government-run Frederick-George-Heriot CHSLD launched the new pilot project this past fall, with an eye toward specifically improving mealtimes. Volunteer workers have been put to work at the Drummondville, Quebec, nursing home to take on menial tasks such as putting on bibs and wiping off tables. That’s allowed more skilled workers to focus on residents who require more attention, such as those with dysphagia, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.
“Our clientele was getting larger. Feeding certain residents can take as long as 45 minutes. At a certain point, we couldn’t do it,” Marie-Claude René, head of volunteer outreach for the regional public health authority, told the CBC. “At least it allows for people to eat their meals while they’re warm.”
Residents so far have been happy with the extra hands, and the union representing long-term care workers has not expressed outright opposition to the program. However, they have voiced concerns that an infusion of volunteer help does not address resident safety issues when a nursing home is understaffed. A union leader tells the CBC that there needs to be more focus on retaining paid staffers in the field.
Nursing homes in the U.S. share Canadian nursing homes staffing woes, and have long relied on volunteers for smaller tasks. But providers may worry about untrained staff overseeing any function of a meal due to regulations.