Wayne County is Way Ahead of the Curve
In the Threescore Summer issue, my article focused on the shortage of personal care aides in Wayne County and the impact it is having on elderly and disabled individuals living independently. This is not just a Wayne County issue but a national dilemma. Workgroups are springing up everywhere to resolve this critical workforce shortage. As I said before, the funding is not the problem, it is the lack of available workforce.
There is ample evidence that preventative community based services offered in the home cost approximately 7% of the cost of a skilled nursing care placement. A frail senior receiving home care services can generally delay entry into a nursing home by approximately 2 years. Without these valuable services, at least half of the 500 seniors that receive the aforementioned community based services would require nursing home placement. The average nursing home cost is $145,000 x 250 seniors = $36,250,000 in annual cost. Only after a senior’s resources are expended down below $14,500 is that senior possibly eligible for Medicaid. Once approved, then payments for the nursing home care will be funded by Medicaid/taxpayer dollars to cover the balance.
Currently our department has a significant wait list for PCA level II services. There is one primary provider in Wayne County that provides this service to multiple agencies. Out of the 143 seniors receiving aide services through our agency we
have approximately 30 clients on a wait list or receiving lower levels of service. Our department’s long term care intake program, NY Connects, received 665 calls requesting aide services in 2018. The department was only able to provide services to 143 of those requests or 22%.
As I mentioned in my last article, the Department of Aging and Youth is currently collaborating with the Department of Social Services and Wayne County Public Health to develop strategies to address the workforce shortage. In August I presented the case to the Board of Supervisors about the impact this is having on Wayne County seniors and their caregivers. The Board was very responsive to the needs of older individuals and is very aware of the benefits our community based services have to offer. Many of the Board members are also facing these issues in their private lives. We all have parents and recognize the necessity of in-home care to help keep our loved-ones home.
The great news is, with the support of the Board of Supervisors and available funding from the state, a resolution was passed in August authorizing us to hire two full time home health aides to provide personal care for eligible seniors on our waiting list. In addition, the home health aides in our community that work extremely hard for next to minimum wage will now have a chance to earn a living wage and benefits. We anticipate finalizing the hiring process in September.
The Director of the NY State Office for the Aging, Greg Olsen, heard of our accomplishments and saw the Power Point that was presented to the board. He contacted me last week and said “Wayne County is way ahead of the curve” and that several other counties are now exploring this approach to deal with the workforce shortage. He has invited me to come to NY City and present Wayne County’s efforts as a “best practice” at the New York Academy of Medicine (all expenses paid).
So I am very pleased to report that , with the collaboration of several county Departments, the efforts of our dedicated staff in compiling the data that we needed to be able to present the “seniors’ story” and the forward thinking Board of Supervisors, we can move closer to actually meeting the need of our senior population in Wayne County.