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Nationwide shortage in senior caregivers impacting First Coast families

A nationwide shortage of senior caregivers has some families waiting months for in-home care, and the problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A nationwide shortage of senior caregivers has some Northeast Florida families waiting months for in-home care. The problem has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the Home Instead Senior Care facility of R.G. Skinner Parkway, a single classroom of future in-home caregivers is the one thing giving chief marketing officer Lisa Atkinson hope. The shortage local families face continues to take a toll.

“We have families call us, probably 10, 12 a day, just wanting their loved ones to be safe and taken care of as they age,” Atkinson said. “We just don’t have the availability of caregivers to fulfill the needs that are out there right now. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Atkinson said many families continue to be placed on waitlists. She said the decrease in caregivers really started in the last 12 months, but that decrease has become considerably worse since January. She said many veteran caregivers are not returning to work and fewer new caregivers are entering the workforce.

“It’s not just a local crisis, it’s happening nationally,” Atkinson said.

That’s why Home Instead is pushing for new recruits. People interested in becoming caregivers receive on-site training at one of the service’s three locations. They go through background checks, fingerprinting and learn CPR. Once they’re placed with a senior living at home, the caregiver can help with everything from grocery shopping and basic personal needs to more in-depth care with a senior on hospice.

Shelby Stowell was a caregiver for several years and agrees the one thing that’s a “must” is a loving heart.

“I find that just being able to be there for somebody on a regular basis, they rely on me,” Stowell said. “It’s extremely comforting.”

Stowell still smiles as she thinks back to one of her most beloved clients, a military veteran and paraplegic.

“Being a younger guy and being in the service, he’s just got a sense of pride that you want to make sure he holds onto for the rest of his days,” Stowell said.

For Atkinson, the growing needs feel personal as she thinks about her 83-year-old mother’s future.

Photos shows Lisa Atkinson with her 83-year-old mother (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“I understand there’s going to be a time when she’s not going to be able to be so independent,” Atkinson said. “She’s going to need people. She’s going to need people to take care of her every day.”

People like the caregivers with Home Instead.

Atkinson said that peace of mind can be everything to a loving family. Training at the facility is free and testing for COVID-19 is a priority at the sites.

Prior experience as a caregiver is not needed with Home Instead. To learn how to become a caregiver, you can visit: https://www.homeinstead.com/location/183/.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.