The Gerontology Institute began a one-year project fall, 2003, funded by the National Institute of Health, to study the role of social relationships in the job satisfaction and retention of direct-care staff in assisted living facilities. There is a serious shortage of direct-care staff in nursing homes and residential care settings and demographic changes over the coming decades are expected to worsen this crisis. Low staff retention and high turnover rates, also major problems throughout the long-term care system, contribute to staff shortages and disrupt continuity of care, both of which directly affect resident care and resident's overall quality of life.
Although few studies have addressed the development and maintenance of a qualified paraprofessional workforce, particularly in residential settings such as assisted living, research in nursing homes does provide some evidence that social support from residents and co-workers affects satisfaction and turnover of direct-care workers.
The specific aims of the study are: 1) to understand how social relationships in the work place affect the overall work experience of direct-care staff in assisted living; 2) to identify individual, socio-cultural, and environmental factors that influence the development and maintenance of these relationships.
Qualitative methods are being used to study two assisted living facilities in the metro Atlanta area. The two research sites are a 31-bed non-profit facility and a 90-bed for-profit facility with a special care dementia unit. Data collection will extend over a 6-month period and consists of in-depth interviews, informal interviewing, and participant observation. The research team consists of Molly Perkins, Mary Ball, Carole Hollingsworth, Michael Lepore, Ramani Sambhara, and Mark Sweatman.