Senior care affected by work shortage

LEWISBURG — The leader of an agency dedicated to helping seniors asked for help on Tuesday with now-common problem.

Holly Kyle, Union-Snyder Area Agency on Aging (USAAA) executive director, told Union County commissioners that the shortage of direct care workers was having a serious impact on services.

“On any given day, my agency has as many as 24 seniors and their families waiting for in-home care,” Kyle said at the commissioner’s work session. “It is not because I don’t have the funds to pay for the services, but because my home care agencies don’t have the workers.”

Kyle said when a frail senior needs help, it is generally needed sooner rather than later. If the help is not available in a crisis, a visit to a hospital, a nursing home or a personal care home may result.

Similar staff shortages have also been seen at nursing homes and personal care homes. Kyle distributed results of a survey collected by the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (P4A) which concluded Union and Snyder counties were among 44 counties where agencies on aging now have or soon will experience staffing issues.

Kyle asked for help from commissioners to bring stakeholders together and find a way out of the staffing dilemma.

Preston Boop, Union County commissioner chair, said it was unfortunate but many employers have experienced similar shortages.

“In my simple understanding, this situation has been created by COVID and reaction, policies (and) mandates by somebody higher up the food chain than Union County commissioners,” Boop said. “You like everybody else are competing for a workforce that is limited in past practices and policies of money that has been provided to individuals that do not have jobs. It has put us in a position where there are less people out there working than there were two years ago.”

Boop conceded he did not have a fix for the labor market trend but hoped that a stable economy could be established from the presidential administration down to the local level via state governors.

“Until the way we do business changes back to the norm, I don’t know how we fix this problem,” Boop said. “I don’t know how we convince people that they ought to go to work.”

Kyle concurred and recalled satisfactions of doing personal care work.

Commissioner Jeff Reber noted many industries, including the county itself, were having trouble maintaining staffing.

Reber asked if state-wide and national associations were helpful. Kyle replied that P4A survey data was being taken to the state Department of Aging and home care associations.

Kyle added that strategizing at all related levels was needed including looking at staff challenges in schools.


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