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Pandemic lack of fuel for home health workers leaves patients without the care they need – San Bernardino Sun

Older adults are finding it harder than ever to get paid help amid a severe staffing shortage at home health agencies.

Several trends have fueled the shortage: Hospitals and other employers hire home health workers with better salaries and benefits. Many aides fell ill or were exposed to COVID-19 during the recent omicron spike, forcing them to quarantine for a while. And employees burn out after working during the pandemic in difficult, worrying circumstances.

The effects on older people are very serious. Some seniors who are ready to leave the hospital have been waiting in a hospital or rehabilitation center for several days before home care can be arranged. Some have returned home with less than optimal help. Some have had service cuts. And some simply do not find care.

Janine Hunt-Jackson, 68, of Lockport, New York, falls into this last category.

She has post-polio syndrome, which causes severe fatigue, muscle weakness and often cognitive difficulties. Through New York’s Medicaid program, she is authorized to receive 35 hours of care per week. But when an assistant left in June, Hunt-Jackson contacted companies, asked friends for recommendations, and posted job advertisements on social media, but got no response.

“A few people show up and then disappear,” she said. “A man is willing to work, but he has no means of transport. I couldn’t find anyone reliable. “

Desperate, Hunt-Jackson arranged for her 24-year-old grandson, who has autism and oppositional defiant disorder, to move into her double-wide trailer and act as her carer.

“It was scary,” she said. “I’m not ready to go to a nursing home, but without home care there are no other options.”

As comprehensive data are not available, the extent and impact of current shortages cannot be accurately recorded. But anecdotal reports suggest the situation is dire.

“Everybody is experiencing shortages, especially nursing and home health aides, and reporting,” said William Dombi, president of the Home Care & Home Health Association. that they cannot accept patients.

Some agents are turning down up to 40% of new referrals, according to reports he received.

“We see a growing need for adult protective services as a result of the growing health care needs of adults,” said Ken Albert, president of Androscoggin Home Healthcare and Hospice in Maine and chairman of the board of directors of the national home care association. people with dementia cannot receive services. “The stress on families trying to navigate care for their loved ones is unbelievable.”

In mid-January, the Pennsylvania Home Care Association surveyed its members: 93% of Medicare-certified home health agencies and 98% of licensed agencies said they had given up. declined to introduce in the past year, according to the association’s CEO Teri Henning.

“Our members say they have never seen anything like this,” she said, “in terms of the number of companies open and the difficulty of recruiting, hiring and retaining employees.”

Lori Pavic, regional director for Pennsylvania for CareGivers America, an agency that provides non-medical services primarily to people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid, says she has a waiting list of more than 200 people.

Another Pennsylvania agency, Angels on Call, is giving priority to people who are severely harmed and live alone.

“Most customers don’t have backups,” said CJ Weaber, regional director of business development for Honor Health Network, which owns Angels on Call.

This is especially true of older adults with serious chronic illnesses and limited financial resources, who are socially isolated – a group “disproportionately affected” by difficulties in accessing access to home health care, says Jason Falvey, assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Many agencies are focusing on patient discharge and rehabilitation facilities. These patients, many of whom are recovering from COVID-19, have an acute need, and agencies are paid more to serve this population under complex Medicare reimbursement formulas.

For those with long-term needs and chronic illnesses, families are filling the gaps in home care as best they can.

Anne Tumlinson, founder of ATI Advisory, a consulting firm specializing in long-term care, said she was shocked when a home health nurse didn’t show up for two weeks in December after her father , Jim, was placed with a central peripheral catheter. for blood cell transfusion. This type of catheter needs careful attention to avoid infection and blood clot formation and should be flushed with normal saline several times a day.

Tumlinson’s father was hospitalized a few days before Christmas with dangerously high levels of fluid in his lungs. He has myelodysplastic syndrome, a serious blood disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. No one from the family health department showed up at the time of his admission.

Since her parents lived in a rural area about 30 minutes from Gainesville, Florida, it was not easy to find help when her father was discharged from the hospital. Only two home health agencies serve the area, including one that did not provide assistance.

“The burden on my mother was enormous,” Tumlinson said. “She’s doing everything.”

https://www.sbsun.com/2022/02/07/senior-living-pandemic-fueled-shortages-of-home-health-workers-strand-patients-without-necessary-care/ Pandemic lack of fuel for home health workers leaves patients without the care they need – San Bernardino Sun

Tom Vazquez

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