Last week, New Zealand passed the country’s first “well-being budget,” with billions in funding directed towards mental health, suicide prevention, addiction treatment and combatting poverty. This development had me considering what a “well-being budget” would look like in long-term care facilities.
Reducing financial hardship
Combating poverty in nursing homes would have to address adequately funding treatments so that facilities are bringing in enough money to cover the expense of services as well as to manage upkeep and comply with regulations. It’s difficult for a business to engender well-being when under the threat of insolvency.
At the same time, any effort to reduce poverty in long-term care would certainly require living wages and reasonable benefits for workers at all levels. That would make it more likely that facilities could attract and retain capable staff.
A well-being budget would also need to increase the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) of residents to account for inflation. While a few states have provided modest increases in resident’s monthly allowances over the years — with Florida the trailblazer at $130 – most have remained the same for decades1. In my state, New York, for example, the PNA was set at $50 in 1980. Adjusting for inflation would make New York’s PNA $155 in 2019, a more reasonable amount considering that residents are responsible for paying for their own clothes, haircuts, telephones and other personal items and have become impoverished in order to qualify for Medicaid. Sadly, however, it is still $50.
To improve the mental health of those who live in nursing homes, my well-being initiative would first tend to the mental health of those who work in long-term care. If employees aren’t emotionally well-balanced, it’s much more difficult for their charges to be.