PHI Releases Report on Home Care in Minnesota, Partners with LeadingAge Minnesota

May 1, 2017

PHI released a research report this week on the home care landscape in Minnesota, examining the state's home care workforce and highlighting trends in the broader sector.

The report—State of Care: Minnesota's Home Care Landscape—was released at a May 2 "workforce solutions" conference hosted by LeadingAge Minnesota, which gathered nearly 300 workforce and aging professionals statewide. PHI partnered with LeadingAge Minnesota to host a May 1 panel presentation where leaders throughout the state spoke about home care and the new report.

"Our analysis in Minnesota illustrates a vibrant and capable home care sector that has made great strides toward improving the quality of care for older adults and people with disabilities," said Jodi M. Sturgeon, president of PHI, a nationally-recognized research and consulting nonprofit based in the Bronx, New York.

“But we also saw in Minnesota what we too often see in states throughout the country: a growing demand for home and community-based services, a pressing need to recruit and retain jobs in home care, and an array of inspiring state and local leaders collaborating to pinpoint solutions that effectively work," Sturgeon added.

PHI reports that the number of people age 65 and older in Minnesota will grow dramatically in the next 10 years—from approximately 870,000 in 2017 to 1.2 million in 2027. By 2030, more than 1 in 5 Minnesotans will be age 65 and older.

This surge has ignited demand for home and community-based services, yet the state's 93,000 home care workers routinely work in jobs characterized by low pay, minimal training, and high turnover. Taken together, these trends are compelling a caregiving crisis for Minnesota, says the report.

While Minnesota currently holds the distinction of being ranked first in the country by AARP's long-term services and support scorecard, PHI's interviews with providers revealed that home care leaders nevertheless grapple with finding and keeping home care workers, especially in a more competitive market where unemployment has dropped and home care competes with fast-food and retail industries for workers.

“The magnitude of Minnesota’s workforce crisis in home care and across the field of caregiving is something we have never seen before. High vacancy rates and even higher turnover rates has led to limited access to services and supports that help Minnesotans age well and live fully,” said Gayle Kvenvold, President and CEO, LeadingAge Minnesota.

“This is a huge challenge for care providers and a source of anxiety for our clients and their families as they strive to maintain their independence and community living," added Kvenvold. "We are focused on near-term solutions that ensure high quality care by experienced caregivers, and bold, longer-term solutions that elevate caregiving as an honored and sought after career.”

Home care delivery is more challenged in rural Minnesota, according to PHI's report. Rural areas are becoming increasingly older in their demographic composition, as the number of older people multiplies and younger people leave for other settings. Home care employers also struggle to fill cases in large, rural geographic areas, where the health infrastructure is thinner and workers must travel hours to reach clients.

The new report offers various recommendations, including interventions that "elevate the role of the aide" by increasing their skills and responsibilities, and by creating advanced roles that promote retention and increase compensation. The report also calls for better wages, higher reimbursement rates in state funding, and improved training, as well as approaches tailored to rural areas, such as new technologies in home care and transportation-related supports. PHI stresses that these actions should build on the state's history of successes, tapping the vast expertise of home care leaders across Minnesota.

State of Care is part of PHI's #60CaregiverIssues campaign, a national, public education campaign that seeks to identify 60 solutions to the country's growing workforce shortage in direct care. Since February, the campaign has reached more than half a million people online, generated widespread media coverage, and released the first seven issues, available at 60CaregiverIssues.org.

--by Robert Espinoza, PHI Vice President of Policy



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