“What about liability?”

One of the first questions I get from owner/operators of nursing homes concerning volunteers is, “What about liability?” 

volunteer reading to nursing home resident
My response: “What about it?”  How many people are working in nursing homes today who have never had a course in gerontology? How many people are on nursing home floors right now providing cares for which they received no training or the person before them “trained” them in “this is how I do it.”  How many lawsuits are currently being levied at long-term care facilities. Now before you send me your email about how many great people are working in nursing homes, save it.  I know this from first-hand experience.  In the 25 years or so of working with the long-term care community, maybe I’ve met five people who I thought were in the wrong job.

My point is that the answer to the liability question is “thorough vetting, quality training and treating and valuing volunteers as employees.” 

With that said, I know from experience that there are people in our communities that are willing to be thoroughly vetted and trained being motivated not by the need for income but rather their need to engage in a meaningful way by giving back to their communities while sharing a passion for serving older adults.  I would suggest that this person, this volunteer, will present less of liability problem than paid staff.  Now if you’re going to send me email about volunteers replacing paid staff, save it.

We’re now approaching 1.2 million vacancies in long-term care staffing.

The ship is sinking.  We need all hands on deck.  We need to take advantage of every resource that is available to us, to include what I call “trusted” volunteers.

Ok, go ahead send me your comments and emails anyway.

Really, I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Email me at: paul@community-360.org

Author: Paul Falkowski

Dr. Paul Falkowski is an advocate for  expanding the role of volunteers in long-term care settings. Using state-of-the-art training techniques, Dr. Falkowski has trained and placed hundreds of volunteers in nursing homes in Omaha, Council Bluffs and Lincoln.  Paul has recently moved the training program online to make the training accessible to anyone. He has a passion for life and living, he values owning our responsibility to others and having the courage to do the right thing. His vision is discovering volunteers as a work-ready resource to enhance the quality of life for people living and working in nursing homes.

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