Page 5 of 5 Previous

Continued: Care aides get little to no training for life-and-death tasks

  • Article by: CHRIS SERRES , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 2, 2014 - 2:43 PM

The proposed changes, which must still be approved by federal authorities, could also greatly reduce financial waste. Currently, hundreds of individual home care agencies handle their own payroll and taxes, even though many of the agencies employ just a few caregivers. In the future, people could bypass the agencies and these administrative tasks would be handled by several large state contractors. The resulting savings from consolidating overhead costs likely would free more money for patient care, some disability advocates say.

“This is about consumer empowerment,” said Steve Larson, senior policy director for Arc of Minnesota, which serves people with developmental disabilities. “We really feel that quality will improve and people’s lives will be better if they have more control over their own care.”

Still, some county officials and providers worry that the new program will end the requirement that patients receive home visits by a nurse or other qualified professional. In many cases, these visits are the only professional help that a caregiver receives — and one of the few ways for a provider to know if an elderly or disabled client is receiving adequate care, say county officials.

To Lassen, the balance already has shifted too far away from clear government oversight. During a recent trip to her father’s grave in Aberdeen, S.D., with her 4-year-old son, Joel, Lassen said she is still tortured by guilt over his death.

She regrets not asking more questions when she discovered her father alone and disheveled in the dark basement of the group home. She regrets not asking staff why no one had shaved or showered him for what seemed like days; and why he grimaced in pain as he walked to the dinner table to eat the banana cream pie she brought for him.

As family surrounded the open casket at his funeral, Lassen slipped a small, handwritten note into the breast pocket of her father’s suit. “I wanted him to know how sorry I was that he had to go through so much pain,” said Lassen, as she wiped away tears. “My fear is that, if nothing changes, it will happen again to someone else.”


Staff writer Glenn Howatt contributed to this report.

Chris Serres • 612-673-4308

Twitter: @chrisserres


  • related content

  • Video: Home-based caregivers under strain

    Monday January 12, 2015

    A day in the life of home-based caregiver Teri Sernett illustrates the challenge many face.

  • Photo gallery: PCAs: Little training, but lives are put in their hands

    Saturday August 16, 2014

    Each day, thousands of home-based caregivers are thrust into life-and-death situations with little or no direct supervision. They perform...

  • Want to be a personal-care assistant in Minnesota? Take the test

    Friday August 15, 2014

    You must answer 20 out of 25 of these questions correctly to receive a passing score.

  • Graphic: Caregivers, tasks and who pays

    Sunday August 17, 2014

    Home caregivers' dramatically expanded roll in performing health care tasks in the home and the...

  • Special report: Unchecked care in Minnesota

    Chains bring major changes to wages, care in multibillion-dollar market.

  • Teri Sernett, left, a personal care attendant, cared for Gary Jarvis with help from his wife, Linda, at the couple’s home.

  • On her way to a client, PCA Debra Howze picked up some prescriptions at a drug store in Brooklyn Park before being on punched in on the clock. This is one of the tasks that is not in the job description of a PCA. ] Richard Tsong-Taatarii/

  • At the home of Linda Jarvis who living room has been turned into a hospital room for husband Gary Jarvis, who suffered a massive stroke and needs 24-hour care, PCA Teri Sernett , right, worked with Linda to put a clean diaper on Gary before moving to his wheelchair using a lift. ] Richard Tsong-Taatarii/

  • Lisa Lassen who lost her father, Kenneth Ell, a retired railroad worker, who died of organ failure stemming from a foot infection due to poor diabetic care described his harrowing last days during a video interview at the grave site in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on July 27, 2014. "I believe 100 percent that my father would still be alive today had he been treated by licensed and trained professionals." ] Richard Tsong-Taatarii/

  • Home Health by the numbers

    Number of Americans who receive home healthcare services: 11 million

    Number of home health aides, nationwide: 875,100

    Percentage of home health aides who are female: 89 percent

    Median annual pay of home health aides, 2012: $20,820

    Federal poverty level for a family of four: $23,850

    Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters