Debra rested her head in her left hand as she scoured through the budget sheets she had carefully organized across her desk. It had been over a week since she had left at a decent hour. She would be missing the kids’ hockey game again tonight, but she knew she needed to figure things out.
Operations at the manor were getting challenging. She had just lost three staff people in the kitchen as they had found other opportunities that offered similar pay, but with less responsibilities and more opportunities for tips. The yoga instructor had submitted his two weeks’ notice, which put the yoga program on hiatus. Despite Debra’s attempt at adding an additional class each week, he decided to start teaching at a studio downtown where he would have a busier schedule with more pay. The art class instructor had let Debra know today that this would be her last month, as she had decided to run her own Paint Night business. Debra could hire her in to do painting events at the manor if there was demand, but it would cost double what the Manor was currently paying her.
Debra let out a deep sigh. The budget was simply not stretching enough. She had increased wages to remain competitive within the industry, and everyone received small increases across the board to keep pay scales balanced given the introduction of new minimum wage legislation. Utilities had increased as well, and food costs were now the highest she had ever seen. The more she tried to crunch numbers and get creative with the budget, the more she worried about having to cut services…services her residents valued and enjoyed taking part in. Sure there were resources such as volunteers and community members that could come in to lead programming, but the residents had grown accustomed to professionally-led classes and were used to an assortment of high-quality offerings. They were already upset hearing rumours that some classes would no longer be continuing.
“But what about all the funding you get from the government?” residents were asking. What they didn’t realize was that all that it was all capital funding earmarked for the new dementia wing set to start construction in the spring. It was not money for operations. There had been a big announcement and residents were excited. What they didn’t see was that staff were now needing to meet with the project leaders to plan the build, and onboard those managing the project on top of their regular duties.
In addition to managing the new construction project, Debra was in the midst of the Manor’s second compliance audit of the year. Staff were becoming frustrated with all the paper work and having to respond to the same questions over and over again. “Didn’t we just do this?” her supervisors would ask, trying their best to push back with requests as they tried their best to manage the building’s day-to-day pressures. “Yes, but this one if for a different regulator,” Debra would try to explain. “Can’t we just hand in what we did six months ago?” Debra would shake her head. “It unfortunately doesn’t work that way,” she would respond.
Debra loved her job, and she loved the residents. They deserved to retain their life-long hobbies and engage in meaningful activities, learning new things in dignified ways. She hated making hard decisions each day. She hated disappointing people. She was feeling trapped in the compliance models that seemed to be taking over.
She did one final review of the budget, made some notes, and shut down her computer for the evening. “Something has to change,” she thought to herself.
Last week, Charlie and Hazel were concerned with the rumours spreading about cutting services at the Manor. This week, we see things from Debra, the manager’s perspective. What do you think of the situation? Did you learn anything new? Do you have any questions or criticisms?
We’d like to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts with us below. Perhaps you have suggestions such as grants, collaboration models or community resources that could offer some creative solutions to Debra’s current situation.