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Local View: Long-term senior care needs legislator attention

New caregivers are desperately needed to enter the field and help provide needed services for our seniors --- but our sector can’t adequately attract many due to staffing salaries that are set by the state legislature that are out of date.

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Shane P. Roche
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I’m writing with urgent and important information: Minnesotans are losing access to needed senior care within their home communities. The Legislature needs to act immediately to support our aging populations.

New caregivers are desperately needed to enter the field and help provide needed services for our seniors — but our sector can’t adequately attract many due to staffing salaries that are set by the state Legislature that are out of date. We have tried everything we can think of for recruitment and retention strategies, but wages are important.

A survey from earlier this year found that 78% of Minnesota's nursing homes are limiting admissions. Almost all long-term care communities face extreme financial uncertainty and staffing crises.

We know the staffing crisis is real in many industries, and it’s hitting long-term care communities particularly hard. We’re seeing it firsthand as well at Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hibbing. Guardian Angels is a skilled nursing center that has been serving St. Louis County since 1965. Our focus and commitment is to continue to serve the health care demands and lifestyles of today’s older adults with compassion and excellence. Challenges in hiring caregivers is creating difficulties for accepting new admissions and providing care for our community members.

Across the state we are losing staff, and Minnesota seniors are at risk of losing access to essential care. Caregivers deserve higher wages, so that they can imagine opportunities of a real career in senior care settings, instead of stress and burnout and under-compensation. The entire long-term care sector is struggling to recruit and retain the workers needed to fill 23,000 open positions. Without a real investment in compensation for the people who work as senior caregivers, we will not be able to meet the demand for senior care services driven by the largest population of seniors in our state’s history.

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I’ve been fortunate to serve as a nursing home administrator for over 20 years in Minnesota. I earned my master’s degree in gerontology from Minnesota State University Mankato, and also serve as an adjunct instructor for nursing home administration courses through Minnesota State University Mankato. I have been the licensed nursing home administrator at Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hibbing for the past five years.

This is the most challenging staffing crisis that I have seen in my tenure. Statewide, 15 nursing homes have closed since 2019 — four of these since January in this year alone. I am concerned about the future of care options and think about the number of seniors who will call upon us for care. Caregiving is an honorable profession that requires special skills and training. But low wages make it impossible to maintain a workforce of skilled, compassionate caregivers. A nursing home's ability to increase pay is tied directly to state funding allocations.

State Rep. Jennifer Schultz chairs the House of Representative’s Human Services Finance and Policy Committee and recently held a hearing for bill HF 3729. The proposal would utilize a small percentage of the state’s budget surplus to invest in caregiver wage increases. Unfortunately, this bill was not included in the House’s budget proposal. The best way that you can help today is to contact your local legislator to support bill HF 3729 and funding our community caregivers.

Hibbing's Shane P. Roche, licensed nursing home administrator, is administrator of Guardian Angels Health and Rehab Center.

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Back view of nurse caregiver support walking with elderly woman outdoor
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