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If you work in the field of aging services and ever wonder whether you’re really making a difference, this story is for you.

A few weeks ago, a team of amazing people from Presbyterian Homes & Services joined hundreds of Aging Services members for three days of face-to-face advocacy at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

Brandi Barthel, Care Center Administrator at The Gables of Waverly Gardens, shared this moving story about the connection her team shared during their time at the Capitol. It is a powerful reminder of what it means to care for another person’s loved one – the gratitude that people have for this important and honorable work.

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Brandi writes:

It starts with a connection.

As we were waiting for our appointment with Senator Goodwin, her Legislative Assistant Billie Ball approached me and said “Bambi?” I looked at her with a moment of confusion.  It was then I remembered she was a family member of a past resident that resided at our Johanna Shores Memory Care Household.

I stood with excitement as the tears flowed down her face.  We shared the memories of her father who had passed away two years ago. She went back to her desk to grab a picture of her father dressed in his Sunday best wearing a hat and a big smile on his face.

This picture was taken during the “glamour shots” activity that we hosted while he lived at Johanna Shores. She said it was one of her favorite pictures of her dad and had it proudly displayed on her desk.

She stopped to show others who walked by the picture of her loving and happy father who embraced the staff of Johanna Shores as family just as we embraced him as our family.  And as families do, we continued to reminisce about everything that made him unique and special.

One of her other fond memories was the “beer and the boys” activity that was inspired and requested by her father. We laughed about how her dad insisted we serve “the real stuff” and how even living in our community he was still the “patriarch of our family.”

You can imagine how this inspired us as we were waiting to speak with Senator Goodwin about the much needed funding for our long term care employees and residents.

When our appointment time arrived, she introduced us to Senator Goodwin as the team that cared for her father and she was so grateful for what we do.  As we met with the Senator, we shared this story and she was compassionate towards our efforts to increase Long Term Care funding.

It was because of the caring staff at Johanna Shores and many other facilities that lovingly embrace the residents that make the positive lasting impressions on families that choose to place their loved ones in our care.

Reminiscing on those times that he shared with us at Johanna Shores reminds us why we have devoted our lives to this industry.  Our nursing assistants and nurses make that happen each day for very little more than a thank you followed by a sincere smile from those that we care for.

But unfortunately this is not enough to pay the bills for these special staff.  The time has come that we must re-invest in the staff that care and make a difference to the parents and loved ones that supported us through our lives.

Our mission says we take in and love the most frail of our people.  It is up to us to ensure the staff that we count on to make these memories can afford to continue to serve, because we cannot afford to lose them.

That is why we stressed to Senator Goodwin not to forget Long Term Care in the Legislative session this year.  It is our front line care givers that need this funding to continue the loving support of our residents and families. Support us in making memories in years to come.

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Thank you, Brandi, for sharing this story. Because of your work, one more lawmaker knows just how important it is to support the caregivers who serve our loved ones.

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This week, hundreds of caregivers, volunteers and aging services professionals will visit the State Capitol for a week of face-to-face meetings with lawmakers.

The goal of these meetings is simple: to share stories about the changing faces and places of senior care in Minnesota, and urge lawmakers to make this issue a top priority.

Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of Aging Services of Minnesota, set the stage for this week’s meetings:

“Someone will always say there isn’t enough money. This is about priorities. Minnesota seniors and caregivers should be among our top priorities – they deserve our support and investment.”

When advocates and caregivers meet with their elected officials this week, they will highlight five key ways to strengthen senior care and prepare Minnesota for the future:

1.      Invest in Caregivers

  • Provide wages that attract and retain the very best caregivers, paying them adequately for the demanding work they do on behalf of Minnesota seniors.
  • Protect the more than 112,600 MN jobs that senior care generates across the state.

 2.      Invest in the Places Where Senior Care is Delivered

  • Fund infrastructure improvements in senior care buildings and communities that will increase the quality of life for residents and allow caregivers to deliver the best possible care.

3.      Invest in Quality 

  • Senior care is so much more than nursing homes. We must invest in new models and innovation that will continue to improve quality, while offering seniors the care/services they need and want.

4.      Create Financial Stability for Seniors, Families and Providers

  • People who can afford it should plan and pay for the cost of long-term care, and we should create tools to help them do that; and
  • Low income seniors should still have access to a safety net and the right level of services for their unique needs. Funding for home and community based service must be adequate to pay for what consumers need.

5.      Invest in the Future

  • Fund technology that improves how we care for seniors, and find ways to truly integrate long-term care services and supports with the rest of the health care world.

Advocates also will share with lawmakers the results of a recent public opinion survey conducted by the Long-Term Care Imperative. Key findings of that survey include:

  • 85 percent of Minnesota voters support increasing funding for in-home and community based care to make it easier for seniors to stay independent longer.
  • 77 percent said they support increasing funding for nursing homes to improve overall quality.
  • 75 percent support allowing individuals to cash in their life insurance in order to pay for long-term care.
  • And finally, 64 percent of voters are willing to pay more in taxes to improve long-term care in Minnesota.

Will you be at the Capitol this week? What will you advocate for? Take a few minutes to visit the Stars Among Us online gallery, where hundreds of senior caregivers have shared what they want lawmakers to know about the important work they do.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Aging matters to all of us.

This blog will address the issues, questions, challenges and opportunities that surface as we work to meet the demands of an aging population.

It’s also a place to highlight the people and organizations whose passion, creativity and commitment are shaping the future of older adult services in Minnesota.

Everyone has a story about how aging impacts their life – we hope you’ll join the conversation and share your story.

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