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MO Takes "Baby Steps" In Building Home Care Industry For Boomers

November 12, 2008

Missouri is taking a baby step toward meeting the huge demand for home-care services and building a work force industry for the baby boomer generation. Now that voters have approved Proposition B, one of governor-elect Jay Nixon's first tasks will be to appoint the Missouri Quality Homecare Council to oversee the recruitment and training of more home-care attendants.

Currently, 22,000 personal-care aides in Missouri provide a lifeline for people who can't care for themselves. Reinforcements for them are needed as baby boomers retire but the traditional labor pool for caregivers is shrinking, compounding problems for a workforce already beset by low wages and high turnover.

Bob Pund was in a car accident nearly 20 years ago that paralyzed him from the neck down. He says keeping a reliable attendant is nearly impossible, but his life depends on it.

"If someone quits on me, I need someone tonight just to go to bed, so, you know, it's very important to get
someone quick."

Pund says the problem of keeping good in-home care is very real and only going to get worse if the state doesn't oversee the home-care attendants' training and pay.

"We have a lot of problems right now and it's only going to get worse as the baby boomers retire and start
needing services so that they can stay in their own homes."

The Missouri Quality Homecare Council will maintain a list of eligible attendants and recommend to the General Assembly how much attendants should be paid. Under Prop B, home-care workers can also vote to form a union, but they are not allowed to strike. Critics of Prop B said forming this council is too costly for taxpayers.

But Krissi Jimroglou of Missourians For Quality Homecare says by building a strong, happy workforce to keep those on Medicaid in their homes, instead of in nursing homes, will be a huge savings for taxpayers. She says it is a win-win alternative for everyone.

"Home care is the cheaper option for taxpayers, it's the preferred option for consumers, and, frankly, workers get to develop great relationships, often calling these folks their second family."

Jimroglou says it costs the state about $9,000 to cover the annual cost of in-home services for a person on Medicaid, while nursing home care averages about $24,000.

For more information log onto www.moqualityhomecare.org

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO