Thousands of Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities who require help with daily living activities at home now have a place to go to find caregivers who can meet their needs.
After years of preparation, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has launched the state's first online job portal that connects people who need assistance with tasks, such as bathing, dressing and preparing meals, with caregivers who are looking for work. State officials will roll out the new online job portal — Direct Support Connect — to the state's 140,000-person direct care workforce this summer and fall, with the hope of getting enough people to register for the website that it will become a reliable place for people to get help in their homes.
The new service, which will be announced Friday, is designed to reduce the daily frustrations many individuals with disabilities face in finding and keeping quality caregivers. All too often, people who are unable to get reliable aid have resorted to making desperate pleas for help on Facebook and other social media networks, only to receive scattershot responses that don't match their needs. The challenges of recruiting reliable care can be so daunting that people with significant physical disabilities can spend several hours a day just posting ads online, combing websites for help and interviewing possible candidates.
"This could really do miraculous things for the state's [home care] program," said Shawntel Harry, of east St. Paul, who has been a personal care attendant for 15 years. "If we can get the people who need care immediately connected to those who can provide it, then we could bring stability to people's lives."
The demand for a statewide service that would connect people to direct support workers has intensified over the past several years, amid a critical and deepening shortage of caregivers. The shortage has grown so acute that scores of people who could be living independently in their own homes or apartments are instead moving into sterile and restrictive nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, the Star Tribune reported in May. Others have been forced to go without care for hours or even days at a time, putting their health in jeopardy, say caregivers and their clients.
As of December, there were nearly 8,000 unfilled home health care jobs across the state — the most in at least 16 years, according to the state workforce agency.
"We are at a moment in time when we need to do everything we possibly can to bolster and support the direct care workforce," said DHS Assistant Commissioner Claire Wilson.