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Nursing home supply shortages

March 28, 2011
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After I moved into a for-profit nursing home in 1996, it appeared there was plenty of everything, from food to linens. To me it seemed extravagant that dietary put a tea bag on my trays when I drank it only at breakfast. I also received condiments that I never used. But perhaps dietary felt that was more economical than an aide running back and forth to the kitchen. “Quality” was in the facility's name and the care was good. Its state surveys reflected as much.

As the years went by and ownership changed, we residents noticed supplies were less plentiful. In dietary, the quality of the food declined. There were cutbacks in laundry and housekeeping. Fewer staff had to do more and we wondered how all of our rooms could be cleaned thoroughly. One dedicated daytime laundry person produced large quantities of clean linen and clothing. But the person who worked on her days off was not as diligent, and residents had to wait longer for clothing as their dirty laundry piled up for the next shift.

When the facility downsized, shortages became more apparent. Some days treatment nurses did not have necessary supplies to treat their residents. The central supply aide complained that it was impossible to stay within her budget. It became routine for the facility to run out of 2X disposable briefs. Bariatric residents had to decide whether to wear a smaller size or rest on a washable incontinent pad.

During the last three years of my stay we seldom had enough towels and washcloths. Aides had to wait to shower and wash up their residents. Management said aides were throwing linens away instead of sending them out to be laundered. Residents were also blamed for hoarding them. But we residents were frustrated when there were no towels and washcloths when we needed them. The issue was brought up at resident council and most of the time more linen was ordered afterward. We never did know the source of the problem.

Even though I am in a different facility now, there are still problems with shortages. Tissues are available intermittently and many times we are low on toilet paper.

The 50 residents in this facility probably create the laundry of a 100 residents. If these younger residents are able, they take showers when they want. Housekeeping has had a difficult time keeping up, until two months ago when one housekeeper was assigned to do laundry, which has worked out well. She does the work promptly and keeps track of our clothing.

Cuts in Medicaid reimbursement have impacted nursing homes and their supply budgets, which affects the lives of residents. Younger residents expect more and will complain if they can. I feel supplies and linens are necessities. When we do not have what we need our wellness and wellbeing decline.

Kathleen Mears


Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...



I take offense to your "administrators are not hurting in salaries" comment. I never work just a 40 hour week and am on call 24/7. I have had to return to the facility in the middle of a vacation. I fill in for other positions when they are short, and still have to find a way to get my work done. I donate thousands of my own salary dollars back to the residents of the facility to pay for the fun or "nice to have" things that aren't in the budget. I haven't had a raise in 3 years. We find a way to get what our residents NEED, but there isn't always the money for everything everyone WANTS. When there is not enough money coming in to pay all the bills, who or what doesn't get paid? People who think this job is easy and that we are all about the money need to walk a few miles in our shoes before criticizing how we do things.

Worrying about "necessities" is something that no one should have to do. Especially in the United States of America. Yet I have experienced the same "lesser quality" of necessities (whether they be human beings in the form of home health aides/caregivers or materials like linens and toilet paper).

The administrators of nursing homes, home health agencies, assisted living facilities, adult care homes etc. are not hurting in their salaries. Long-term care in the United States is a multibillion-dollar business with people living longer and moving into facilities. A great deal of this "government spending" (that is now over a trillion dollars of unnecessary spending) needs to be stopped.

People need to take a stand in this country and it starts with a single person or a small group of people.

Let's hope that these "cutbacks" can be seen as totally illegal in the near future. The government and other people are going to other countries to "help them out" when the helping needs to begin right HERE in our own country.

Your last paragraph hit it on the nail. "Cuts in reimbursments.." I've been out of the financial know for a few years and so much has changed in that time. It is sickening what that the government can make cuts like this. LTCs are businesses and need to run on on budget, but who suffers? Maybe there could be cut backs in certain area....Laundry might need to be done every other day or a few times a week, but running out of basic supplies for wound care etc. No...not good.
Most facilities or I think all of them need to have back ups in place for supplies etc. If we run out of dressing supplies...I'm calling our back up to get them there. Might cost more for the facility, but maybe the person doing the ordering will order more next time? We did have an incident where we ran out of briefs, but it was an ordering snafu...that was easily taken care of by running to a local big box warehouse. Residents should not suffer because of these mistakes or mix ups.