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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.

A few weeks ago, we released the results of a statewide public opinion poll commissioned by the Long-Term Care Imperative. The results were both fascinating and worrisome.

“These numbers are striking in the reality they depict. Minnesotans act as caregivers for loved ones while they are financially unprepared for their own long-term care needs,” said Gayle Kvenvold, President and CEO of Aging Services of Minnesota. “We face a looming economic crisis as our population ages. Now is the time to advance real solutions that will protect access and quality of care for all Minnesota seniors and their families.”

At a very high level, four key themes emerged from the poll: 

1.    Minnesotans are not prepared to pay for their care.

2.    Access to quality senior care is a right, not a privilege.

3.    Caregivers (formal and informal/family) need more support and resources.

4.    Minnesotans support reform proposals that will achieve four key outcomes:

  • Improve care for seniors first and foremost
  • Address a looming crisis in our state
  • Improve conditions for caregivers
  • Improve the economy by delivering care more efficiency and strengthening the long-term care workforce

What do you think when you see these numbers? We know Minnesotans want to remain independent for as long as possible as they age, but we also know most won’t be able to pay for the care they need and want.

We’ll continue to post excerpts and additional findings from the Long-Term Care Imperative poll in the coming weeks – stay tuned.

Congratulations to Lisa Kalla, administrator at Johanna Shores – a Presbyterian Homes & Services community in Arden Hills. Lisa was one of nearly 150 amazing caregivers who submitted their stories to the Stars Among Us campaign during the 2012 Aging Services of Minnesota Institute. She is also the lucky winner of an iPad2!

Here’s what Lisa shared about why she is driven to serve Minnesota seniors:

What inspires you to serve?
What inspires me to serve older adults is truly the mutual satisfaction of helping someone. It sounds like a cliche but when you hold the hand of the dementia resident who is scared and see their fear dissolve, you really see you are more than anything a mission statement can describe, you are everything to that person.

Sometimes when we focus on the regulations and reimbursement, it is easy to get discouraged but then you think about how important you are to that one person you may have touched today and it inspires you to go on, to try to change systems, to get back to the reason you entered into this job and be with the residents and realize you being there is what matters most to them…that is what inspires me.

What does a career in older adult services mean to you?
A career serving older adults to me is a career of change. You change with resident acuity, you change with business needs, you change with the uniqueness each resident brings. I love working for a Christian organization that focuses on the residents needs and individual differences.

The most rewarding part of my job is figuring out how to balance excellent care, budget and resident individuality. Learning about resident likes, wants and hobbies and then implementing programs to really enrich the lives of the residents we serve. The most challenging is to see the residents we grow to love decline physically and mentally.

Take a few minutes to read the inspiring stories of caregivers who have dedicated their lives and careers to serving Minnesota’s seniors. These people are changing lives every day and we are so grateful they’ve chosen to share their talent and passion in the field of older adult services.

Submit Your Story Today!
We are still collecting Stars Among Us stories and displaying them in our online gallery – will you add yours to the collection? Aging Services will share these stories with lawmakers, community leaders and other organizations who are working together to support senior care in Minnesota.

Why do you serve older adults?

We all know them – people who go above and beyond. They don’t just do their jobs, they seem to really like their jobs. They go out of their way to make someone else’s day better.

In the field of older adult services, these are not the faces and stories that make the front page of the newspaper – but they should.

So here at Aging Services, we’re trying something new. We created the Stars Among Us campaign to shine a light on the people who are the backbone of our support system for seniors. We want to celebrate the difference you make in the lives of those you serve and the contributions you make in your community.

To participate in the Stars Among Us campaign, simply tell us:

  • What inspires you to serve older adults? Is there a mentor or fellow caregiver who motivates or helps you? What keeps you going on tough days?
  • What does a career serving older adults mean to you? What is the most meaningful or rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
  • What do you advocate for? What do you want public policy makers to know about the work you do?

Here’s a sneak peak at what we’ve already heard from some amazing caregivers:

  • Georgia Morphew at Northfield Hospital Long-Term Care Center says, “It’s one of those jobs where you need to bring not only your skills, but patience, empathy, kindness, respect, and love. So when they tell you they love your care, you know that is the greatest compliment.”
  • Valerie Heintz at Valley View Healthcare and Rehab says, “Their life stories are history books in the making. I get great pleasure out of learning about our folks, their past lives including the struggles and accomplishments. I find out about them as a person and not just a resident in a bed.”
  • Jenny Weber at Friendship Village in Bloomington says, “Do something that matters. Believe in the future by creating it first.”

If you work in the field of aging in Minnesota – whether you’re a nursing assistant, dietary specialist, housing manager, marketing specialist, administrator, director of nursing, housekeeping specialist – you are a Star Among Us.

The Stars Among Us campaign is for anyone and everyone who has dedicated their career to serving older adults. You do not need to work for an Aging Services of Minnesota member, you just need to proudly serve Minnesota seniors.

For a little added fun, all Stars Among Us entries received by February 10th will be eligible to win a FREE iPad2.

Tell us your story today – and please spread the word.

The Stars Among Us deserve to be in the spotlight, don’t you agree?

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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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