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February 1990, Vol. 113, No. 2
Nursing home aides experience increase in serious injuries
Martin E. Personick
A s the proverb implies, living longer can be a mixed blessing, especially for those so chronically ill or frail that hey require round-the-clock assistance with the basic functions of daily living. Absent alternative care, many of these dependent elderly become residents of nursing and personal care facilities, where their physically demanding needs are both a challenge and a hazard to nursing aides and other caregivers.1 In recent years, such circumstances have led to nursing home employees sustaining, with increasing frequency, serious workplace injuries.
This article - covering private nursing homes2 - is the first in a Bureau of Labor Statistics series focusing on "high-impact" industries, defined as those with the largest numbers of workplace injuries and illnesses, although not necessarily the highest incidence rates.3 According to a 1988 BLS survey, nursing homes - with 15 1,000 cases-ranked sixth behind eating and drinking places, grocery stores, hospitals, motor vehicle manufacturing, and trucking in total recordable injuries and illnesses. Only nine industries, the survey shows, reported at least 100,000 cases that year. (See table 1.) These industries, however, accounted for one-fourth of the 6.4 million cases reported nationwide in 1988. Clearly, if industries with high case counts become safer, more healthful workplaces, then the national figures will reflect these gains in addition to those stemming from improved working conditions in "high-rate" industries.
While nursing homes did not rank among "high-rate" industries, the industry's incidence rate of 15.0 workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers was well above that for private industry as a whole (8.6), for hospitals 4 (8.7), and for all health services (7.3) in 1988.
And, as is evident from chart 1, the year 1988 marked the sixth consecutive annual increase in nursing home rates-one indication of the industry's persistent safety and health problem.
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 1990 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Many research works have drawn attention to quality-of -life issues for the institutionalized elderly. See, for example, Technology and Aging in America, OTA-BA-264 (Washington, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1985); and national research Council, The Aging Population in the Twenty-First Century: Statistics for Health Policy, Dorothy M. Gilford, ed. (Washington, National Academy Press, 1988). Both of these contain extensive reference listings. For an account of what nursing home residents value most in nursing aides and other staff, see Institute of Medicine, Improving the Quality of Care in Nursing Homes (Washington, National Academy Press, 1986).
2 Throughout this article, the terms "nursing and personal care facilities" and "nursing homes" are used interchangeably, as are the terms "resident' and "patient."
3 For an account of industries with high rates of workplace injuries and illnesses, see Martin E. Personick and Katherine Taylor-Shirley, "Profiles in safety and health: occupational hazards of meatpacking," Monthly Labor Review, January 1989, pp. 3-9.
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