Caregivers need to feel valued and supported, too

During her 45 years in the healthcare industry, Barbara (Barb) Starch has worked in a variety of roles — from orthopedic nurse to clinical coordinator.

Starch lived on a farm in northeastern South Dakota before moving to Montevideo when she was 13. Two years later, Starch got her first paying job in caregiving at a senior care center. She was making $1.44 an hour in 1974, which was “big money back then.”

“I just enjoyed working with the elderly and enjoyed taking care of people,” Starch said as she recalled her first caregiving job. “There’s great satisfaction at the end of the day that you helped someone else.”

Three years ago, Starch started working as the Minimum Data Set Coordinator for Three Links in Northfield. The Minimum Data Set (MDS) is part of the federally mandated clinical assessment all residents receive periodically at senior care centers. The MDS portion of the assessment aides in measuring a resident’s functional capabilities and identifying health problems. Starch’s job is to ensure that the federal forms and the assessments are completed correctly so Three Links can continue to provide quality care.

Like many healthcare professionals, Starch wanted to become a nurse to help people live a healthier and better life.

“My mom had lots of health problems growing up, so I never knew my mom as a well person,” Starch said. “So, I wanted to be a nurse to help people feel better.”

During her career, Starch said she has come to understand the need to provide more support and resources for professional caregivers. The growing senior population across Minnesota is creating a huge demand for caregivers. In fact, an additional 25,000 professional caregivers will be needed over the next decade.

“You have a lot of staff that are trying to juggle daycare and families and residents, but there’s not always everything they need to make that work,” Starch said. “We need to have resources to help [caregivers] so they can be successful.”

Starch has personally experienced this need within her own family. In February 1999, Starch’s husband, Tom, suffered injuries in a car accident that left him dependent on a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

“I juggled taking care of him and two teenagers as a family caregiver,” Starch said. “It was very stressful, but now I can share my experiences with people and give them encouragement and hope.”

The support of her supervisor at the time of her husband’s accident made a huge difference in caring for her family, Starch said. “She was able to give me the hours I needed to take care of my husband and was very flexible with my hours, so I could take care of my children.”

Caregivers need to feel valued and supported to provide great care for their residents and their families at home. “Caregivers definitely need more help with childcare and finding affordable housing,” Starch said.

Caregiving is a valuable and rewarding career, but like Starch said, it’s important to remember that our caregivers need support, too.

“It’s such an honor and privilege to take care of someone,” she said. “And take care of yourself so you can give good care to others”

Andrea Magaña is a regulator contributor to Face Aging MN. If you want to reach her or have any questions, you can reach us at info@faceagingmn.org. Have your own story to share? We’d love to hear from you.

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