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Readers’ Views

State Legislature: Help needed for seniors in our community

To the Editor:

Our senior living site has a long history of serving the Fairmont community and Martin County by providing care for older adults. We have a dedicated team of caregivers and professionals, and strive to fulfill our mission to provide compassionate care in a joy-filled environment. But like other long-term care providers across the state, we are struggling to attract staff. And this is impacting how many seniors we can serve.

We serve many individuals who rely on a program called Elderly Waiver to receive care in our settings. Elderly Waiver rates are set by the legislature. That means we need their help to make our compensation packages competitive so we can recruit and retain the skilled professional caregivers we need to serve Minnesota’s seniors. But we cannot do it on our own. State funding is not keeping up with the growing demand for senior care services. And these staffing issues are increasingly more dire every day. We need to improve access to care in every community in the state, not reduce it.

With more and more seniors needing services, this is a serious issue. Minnesota is now the home to one million seniors, and one of every four Minnesota adults will be over the age of 65 by 2030. In Minnesota, we have 23,000 open caregiver positions; about 20 percent of the caregiving workforce is unfilled. Long-term care providers must compensate with longer shifts for staff, which often results in more fatigue, more burnout and ultimately, more resignations.

There is a proposal in the Legislature to address critical short-term and long-term staffing challenges, to ensure that nursing homes, assisted living settings and other home and community-based settings have resources available to provide the staff necessary to care for senior citizens.

On behalf of Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates – and all those that support seniors being able to find the care they need in the communities they call home – it’s imperative this is fixed. Funding for permanent investments in Medicaid rates will allow communities like ours to raise wages, recruit new workers, and retain their dedicated professionals.

We want to say thank you to our local legislators – Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Joe Schomacker who have been strong supporters of seniors and their caregivers. But we face an uphill battle, and we need their ongoing commitment. The MN House and the Governor do not include permanent solutions to raise caregiver wages in their budget proposals this session, but the Senate has included over $350 million that will support the professionals in our field with the wages they deserve. Work is needed to support seniors and caregivers at the state legislature to pass this initiative this year. Please join us in advocating for increased access to care for seniors.

Kacey Kasel,

Executive Director, Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates

— Kacey Kasel is a Fairmont native who obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Presentation College. She has additional licensure as a public health nurse and a school nurse.

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