Being distracted at work because of money problems at home can diminish care and contribute to stress and depression in frontline caregivers in long term care, according to at least one study found in the American Journal of Public Health. The author’s lead researcher, Cassandra Okechukwu, ScD, MSN, assistant professor in the Department of Society, Human Development & Health at the Harvard University School of Public Health, said, “Most surprising to me was the level of people who couldn’t provide food for their families. Frontline managers were empathetic and wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do. However, we also learned that when supervisors are more supportive of other people’s issues, it helps.”

Some facilities have gone the extra mile to make sure that staff aren’t distracted or stressed by money problems. Some of the programs they’ve implemented to help include:
  • Scheduling flexibility. Many certified nurse assistants and nurses have two jobs to make ends meet. Some need the extra money to send home to family members in other countries. Flexible schedules that accommodate busy lives can help those who need the extra work.
  • Financial counseling to help with budgeting and money management.
  • Free employee assistance programs that are open to staff and their families and help them obtain counseling for issues such as financial problems, divorce, stress, and emotional problems.
  • Goal-setting encouragement and support. “I meet with my staff and talk about what they want and where they want to be in five years and how they might get there. I talk to them about potential obstacles and how to overcome these,” says Barnett.
Often, people need to know that their dreams are possible. Barnett says, “When they give me excuses, I tell them how I worked 40 hours a week, raised three kids, and went through [licensed practical nurse] and RN school.” She adds, “When you are behind your staff and they know you support them, it makes for very loyal employees.”

Of course, she notes, sometimes it means losing staff. However, she says, “I love to lose an employee because she’s going to school or graduating with a degree and moving on.”

  • Temporary loans programs. Some facilities offer interest-free loans for employees to get them over rough spots. They usually have to pay it back within a specific time frame or it will be taken out of their paycheck. Rowan has such a fund, and Roby says, “We have never had to take the money from someone’s paycheck. They always pay it back.”
  • Free meals and snacks (such as cup-a-soup, popcorn, sodas, and juices) for staff in the break rooms.
  • Food pantries. Some facilities have food pantries with goods donated by staff, volunteers, vendors, and others from which people can take items (such as diapers and food staples) when they need them.
Source: Okechukwu C et al. American Journal of Public Health; 102(1):126-133