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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Low nursing-home pay costs all

More than 30 percent of the 1.3 million caregivers in nursing homes nationwide receive no health-care benefits and have an average median annual income of $9,000, states a new survey from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Many are certified nursing assistants who help residents with bathing, eating and dressing. Joanne Negstad agrees it's a job for which many are not adequately paid. Negstad directs Lutheran Services in America, an alliance of ELCA and Lutheran Church­Missouri Synod social ministry organizations.

And the problem affects the 1.6 million elderly and ill residents as well because the industrywide low pay contributes to a critical staff shortage. "We're competing for workers with fast food places, some paying $11 an hour," Negstad said. "We can't pay that. The funds just aren't there. More than half of our income comes from the government. It hasn't kept up with costs."


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