At an open meeting on November 7, the County Board discussed the current and future needs of the County’s aging population. (Read the Post Bulletin article, “Are we ready for growing senior needs?” http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/county-keep-sights-on-growing-senior-needs/article_d99886d5-b68c-51f8-a833-89f996b459e1.html
I stated at the meeting that Olmsted has great expertise but needs to move forward to be prepared for the aging population. The aging of the baby boomers and the enormity of their numbers will pose huge demands on the county’s resources as this population’s health, housing and mobility issues start to increase. Maintaining the ability to live in their homes and apartments is extremely important to the aging population and it is the most cost effective way for the county to serve this population. This will require home based services public health services for some of the elderly. Although Olmsted has the expertise it currently lacks the staffing to attend to the increasing needs of this rapidly growing population. The challenge will be to provide these vital services while continuing the services for all other age groups. The County Staff reported that there are many community agencies that partner with Olmsted to provide services. We are fortunate in Rochester to have these agencies; however, coordination of these services and informing the people of these services remains a challenge for the county.
As I stated at this meeting, the Legislature has a role in serving this growing need. Providing the services and increasing staffing is a financial burden that cannot fall upon the county tax levy. It is important for Olmsted to take the lead in informing the Legislature about the needs that will be facing all of the county governments and work with Legislature to develop effective legislation that will keep our elderly population healthy, safe, mobile and properly housed.
Another increasing concern is the shortage health care workers for home health care and nursing homes. Again, I stressed that this is a problem that will need the cooperation of the state legislature. We cannot expect people to work in these low income jobs because they cannot support themselves or their families. In the low unemployment job market, finding people to fill these jobs will be extremely difficult. The Legislature can assist with a solution to this problem by providing job incentives that may include better reimbursement rates to Nursing homes and providing other incentives such as retirement benefits and family health care. The State has the expertise and knowledge of how to do this. Enhancing job benefits will attract more workers and insure that our seniors get the care they deserve.
Additionally, I am concerned about property taxes that are assessed to elderly low income homeowners on fixed incomes. I am working with the PRL (Property Records and Licensing), to inform the elderly and low income homeowners on tax abatement programs that may be available to them. More on this in a future update.
Are you looking for solutions for yourself or an aging parent?
In addition to calling the Olmsted County Public Health Department you can also get help at the Minnesota Senior Linkage Line