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Nursing shortage could cause issues

St. Joseph News-Press - 10/1/2018

Oct. 01--With 75 percent of 65-year-olds today having multiple chronic conditions and over two-thirds of people over the age of 80 filing for a disability, we could soon be looking at a caregiving crisis.

Christine Kerns, CEO and administrator at Living Community of St. Joseph, says providing care for the elderly and hiring nurses to the various positions associated with such a retirement facility is like a volcano: sooner rather than later it will all be too much. there will be too many people to care for and not enough people to care for them.

"We already have a shortage of caregivers, and we're talking about it growing to a pinnacle in 2026."

Much of this can be attributed to the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, as well as the advancements made in medicine. When Medicare was introduced in 1965, the average life expectancy was about 70. Nowadays, many people are living past 80.

And while many in this particular age group have saved money, Kerns says that she is especially concerned for those in low-income housing situations.

"When you think of the number of people in the baby boomer era -- the millions -- there's a large number that really hasn't done the best job saving. Unless at a public-policy level we determine that our elders are important enough to provide adequate care, I'm not sure how we're going to manage that."

That's not to mention the high turnover rate among staff in retirement homes. Kerns explains those facilities need to better support training institutions, because many nurses will turn to better-paying positions. Add to that the number of experienced nurses retiring, and there's a perfect storm of financial strain for both nursing homes and the children who can't afford to care for their parents on their own.

"Long-term care is getting more and more expensive for us to manage in nursing homes," Kerns says. "The Medicaid payment that Missouri provides for us doesn't come anywhere near to covering the cost of care, so more and more providers are getting out of the nursing-care business."

She also says that many CNAs (certified nursing assistants) with 30 to 40 years of experience are difficult to replace once they leave.

"I think it's one of the most special careers that anyone can take, because it's so important for our seniors," Kerns says. "That's where we're struggling now."

She goes on to explain that, for the elderly, staying healthy, consulting primary-care doctors for advice, assessing support systems and talking with an elder-law attorney to take a closer look at finances will help people significantly as they continue to age.

Daniel Cobb can be reached

at daniel.cobb@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowCobb.

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(c)2018 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at www.newspressnow.com/index.html

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