After the public applause offered to healthcare workers in the early days of the pandemic faded, long-term care workers began to experience lower job satisfaction as well as more physical and psychological strain, according to a new report that advocates for better treatment of these employees. 

The report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development examined policies in European countries, which had harsher lock-down policies than the United States. But the recommendations and lessons learned are applicable to long-term care workers worldwide, stated report authors in “Beyond Applause? Improving Working Conditions in Long‐Term Care.”

“Working conditions in long-term care generally remain poor, and it is difficult to attract and retain LTC workers,” the report’s executive summary states. “This challenge will grow tremendously with aging prospects. We need to go Beyond Applause, and this requires taking significant measures to improve wages and working conditions more generally in order to ensure that people requiring assistance in their daily lives receive the care they need.”

The report notes that the total employment in the LTC sector in Europe relative to all industry workers increased from 1.7% in 2011 to 1.9% in 2021. Meanwhile, In the US, nursing homes lost approximately 210,000 jobs during the pandemic, taking the sector to its lowest employment levels since 1994, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. The association also reported in January that 96% of facilities continue struggling to hire new workers. 

The report includes a number of recommendations, and primary among them is increasing government funding to facilities and wages in the public sector as a way to force privately owned companies to follow suit.

Other recommendations include promoting social recognition, strengthening training programs, increasing the use of technology and embracing new technologies, and strengthening preventive health policies, especially among older populations. 

“Public health campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles and rehabilitation policies can mitigate the increasing demand for LTC services,” the report noted. “LTC workers’ role in preventive health can be enhanced through training and guidance on how to help older people stay healthy for longer. Technologies can contribute to reducing health risks, mitigating physical and cognitive decline, and facilitating independent living.”