Staffing shortages, a lack of retirement home beds, rising dementia cases and the impact of Covid have created a “perfect storm” in the aged care sector, says expert Miranda Smith.
Like other regions around the country, demand for aged care services in Hawke’s Bay continues to outpace supply. And the situation is expected to get bleaker, with demand growing rapidly.
Miranda Smith Homecare employs 50 carers in Hawke’s Bay, who provide on average 500-600 hours of care per week. This includes tailored dementia care, as well as respite, palliative and aged care in people’s own homes, ranging from a few hours a week to round-the-clock care.
Founder of Miranda Smith Homecare, Miranda Smith, says an ageing population and care workforce in addition to a number of other pressures have created the “most challenging period” she can recall.
“I’ve owned this business for more than 20 years, and never before have we seen such a perfect storm of crisis conditions within the sector – staffing shortages which have worsened with borders closed, rapidly rising dementia cases, increasing numbers of our elderly being discharged from hospital without confirmed care plans.”
Demand has soared during Covid says Smith, as more families and clients choose private care in the home, rather than a village or retirement home environment. She receives up to three calls a day from people desperate to find care for loved ones that she is unable to provide.
Taking dementia alone, currently 70,000 New Zealanders are living with the disease. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to 100,000.
When it comes to rest homes “we can’t build them fast enough” to meet demand, says Smith. Yet, in an ironic twist of the current crisis, staff shortages are resulting in a growing number of empty rest home beds in Hawke’s Bay. There simply aren’t enough carers to staff them.
The region is experiencing huge growth, with people coming from out of town, as well as locals moving from rural areas into town and looking for services, which is putting rising pressure on rest homes and hospitals. “We know there’s going to be very high demand,” says Smith.
Smith is focusing on staffing as a top priority to ensure they can continue to meet client needs. Starting this month, Miranda Smith Homecare is paying more than the NZ living wage to its caregivers, with hourly rates starting from $23.20. It was time to reward hard working staff who have shown huge commitment during a challenging time, says Smith.
“They’re the ones at the coalface genuinely caring for their senior clients and putting their heart and soul into every shift. They have families to feed and cars to fill with petrol. Paying them more than the New Zealand living wage, and rewarding them for their compassion and care, was important to us.”
Recruiting more staff is vital for providing quality care to those who need it, says Smith. She urges other homecare agencies to think about ways to attract more caregivers to the sector, and paying them adequately is a good start. Caregiving is often misunderstood, but it is an incredibly rewarding, “good-for-the-soul” job, says Smith.
Anyone interested in becoming a caregiver can contact Miranda Smith Homecare on 0800 600 026 or via the company website.