The Current Health Care Labor Shortage Makes Medical Alerts More Important Than Ever

labor crisis

Paying close attention to senior health and wellness matters a great deal. This care helps ensure that you live a longer, healthier life. It’s why we choose to do the things that make us feel better and stronger, such as seeing the doctor on a regular basis, engaging in exercise to help improve overall health, enhancing safety and security with medical alert devices and aging in place solutions, keeping in contact with friends and family, and eating as healthy as possible.

This attention to health matters even more now that the nation is facing a dire shortage of healthcare workers. The world of healthcare is absolutely massive, with 22 million individuals employed in it. According to the CDC, that’s a whopping 15% of all the nation’s workers[1]. About one million of those are physicians[2], and another 4.2 million are registered nurses, with almost another million made up of licensed practical nurses. Nurse practitioners are part of the mix too, with about 325,000 of them there to pick up the slack for physicians and serve in rural or underserved areas[3].

That probably sounds like a lot of healthcare assistance there when you need it, but those numbers aren’t as robust as they should be. In fact, by October 2021, about 16% of hospitals across the United States were facing a critical shortage of staff[4], and since February 2020, employment in healthcare has dropped by 524,000 people[5]. And it might get worse – according to U.S. News and World Report, since the start of the pandemic, 60-75% of clinicians have reported sleep disorders, depression, exhaustion, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

How can seniors be sure to get medical help whenever it is needed given the current labor crisis?

Medical Alerts Matter More Than Ever

While having a medical alert pendant has always been an excellent idea, the shortage of healthcare workers makes it even more important to ensure access to care at all times. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is a scenario like this one:

Let’s say you haven’t invested in an affordable medical alert pendant, bracelet, or watch. Then you suffer a fall at home. You are badly injured. Injured enough, in fact, that getting to your landline or even your cell phone is impossible. Without the ability to call for help, you might lie there for hours – and in a truly awful twist of fate, perhaps even days – until someone realizes they haven’t heard from you and comes to your aid.

If that happens, you wind up in the hospital (as you might imagine) in need of critical care. However, you don’t get the best possible care you could get. The Surgical Care Coalition reports that 76 percent of surgeons say staffing shortages have compromised their ability to provide top-quality care. This means that when you come into the hospital in need of surgical intervention for that broken hip or skilled nursing care to help you literally get back on your feet, the lack of staff could delay your recovery.

If you have a button alarm, you can get help with one push of the button. Within seconds, a trained professional from the Command Center is on the line with you, determining what happened and how to best help you. That means that you get near-immediate assistance in an emergency, and that can mean the difference between a good recovery and a difficult one.

Another potential issue is the lack of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants. These individuals are there to help you in a variety of ways. Nurses and CNAs can be right there near you during your time in the hospital, and later, CNAs can be with you in your home. Their presence can help ensure that your fall risk is significantly decreased and any worrying symptoms can be addressed immediately. But if there aren’t enough nurses to go around, it can make your stay in the hospital much less safe than it should be. And when you go home, finding a qualified CNA can be tougher than ever, considering that the turnover rate was 27.7% before the pandemic[6], and that number has surely gone up since.

Unfortunately, the more patients a nurse cares for in a given shift – known as the nurse-patient ratio – the more likely a person is to see higher hospital readmission rates, higher mortality rates, and other negative effects on patient safety[7].

But falls are not the only reason you might choose to use your medical alarm. Other significant health issues or emergencies, such as heart attacks or stroke, can necessitate the need to push that button and get help on the way. However, The American Hospital Association points out that among that shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2033 are specialists – those very individuals who help take care of you after a major cardiac or other health event. Specialty nurses are also facing shortages, with the need for at least 200,000 new nurses per year to meet the nursing demand in the United States. Even the laboratory technicians who take your blood sample and report back to crucial information to nurses and physicians are facing an unprecedented shortage, with 7.2% of current lab tech positions unfilled in 2022[8].

How to Protect Yourself During the Healthcare Shortage

Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with a healthcare issue while the shortage of physicians, nurses, specialists, and more continues. But having the peace of mind to know that help will be on the way immediately, and that you won’t have to wait for hours or even days for that help to show up, can make life much less stressful, especially during an on-going pandemic.

There are other things you can do to help ensure your safety at home, in addition to wearing a medical alert watch or pendant.

·         Avoid trip hazards in the home. Make sure the floors in your home are non-slip. Avoid using throw rugs that could easily lead to a slip and fall. Make sure electrical cords are out the way and avoid leaving clutter on the floor or in places where it could fall onto the floor. Pay close attention to thresholds at doorways.

·         Get a fall risk assessment. If you are unsteady on your feet or have already suffered a fall, ask your doctor for a fall risk assessment. This fall prevention tool can help you discover and address issues that could be affecting your balance.

·         Use a cane or walker if needed. If you have been told by a healthcare provider to use a cane, walker, or other mobility aid, use it every single time you get up and move around. This can mean the difference between a healthy, happy day and one that quickly turns bad if you take a tumble.

·         Wear appropriate, non-slip footwear. When you are walking around your home, wear comfortable house shoes with non-slip soles. Beware moving around in only socks! When you are walking outside, running errands, or otherwise out of the home, wear sturdy, non-slip shoes that are designed for walking.

·         Take all medications as directed. If you are taking medications, take all of them as directed. Missing a dose can allow problems to arise as your chronic condition gets out of control. Also pay attention to what medications are you taking; a medication for pain, for instance, might make you quite drowsy, and that can make it easier for you to fall. 

·         Hold onto rails and grab bars. Make sure to always use the railings on your stairs or the grab bars in the bathroom to keep your safe footing. These small bits of assistance can help ensure you don’t slip and fall.

·         Consider aging in place home modifications. Some modifications are easier than others. Adding grab bars or a raised toilet seat are a few examples of easy modifications.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are in a healthcare facility and need assistance, be sure to ask for it. Nurses can be quite busy with a high patient-nurse ratio, meaning they might not be able to take the time to escort you to the bathroom, for instance. Always press the call button and wait for a nurse, aide, or other healthcare professional to come to you before you do anything that could put you at risk of a fall while you are climbing out of bed, using the bathroom, or simply moving around the room.

Your button alert from Alert1 Medical Alert Systems can be a lifesaver. Never hesitate to use it, and rest assured that the sooner someone gets to you in an emergency, the more likely you are to avoid even more critical issues. This can add to peace of mind for you, especially when dealing with a shortage of nurses and doctors.