As the Executive Director of Vista Prairie Communities, Rachael Evers sees firsthand the rewards and challenges of caring for seniors.
But Evers worries about the growing demand for caregivers who provide the daily support many seniors need to age with dignity and respect. With Minnesota approaching one million residents 65 or older, she’s already seen the effects of staff shortages at many senior living centers.
Just before the holidays, Evers decided that a positive step would be to thank her staff of 70 for their dedication and to reinforce the value of caregiving. So, in an open letter to her staff, she offered a personal, heartfelt picture of why caregivers are so critical today.
“I want to thank you for all your hard work and know I appreciate each and every one of you,” she wrote. “I firmly believe we have to take care of YOU, in order for you to take care of others.”
Evers told Face Aging MN that the Minnesota Legislature needs to recognize that a growing senior population means there will be a growing need to invest in caregivers. She’s doing her part by spreading the word about the positives – and importance – of working in senior care.
“We need to get people into our buildings, participate in activities, listen to our stories, challenges and needs,” she said. “We can’t just punch out at five o’clock and go home, it doesn’t happen like that.”
Evers, a Springfield, Minn., native, spent her younger years volunteering as a nursing assistant where she realized her passion was in serving others. She takes pride in her ability to motivate her staff and build stronger relationships with them over the past year.
“I try to get to know them on a personal level, whatever, they feel comfortable sharing with me,” Evers said. “I understand that this job is hard work, and I don’t expect them to do anything that I won’t do.”
Evers is firm in her belief that we can’t take care for our seniors without doing more to support caregivers. She continues to push her message via social media and other engagements.
“I just started going out and sharing this vision with other organizations and speaking about how we have to support our employees,” Evers said. “It’s important to create this culture where we engage our employees or else we’ll have a crisis.”
That is why Evers believes the State of Minnesota and senior care providers must work together to expand the caregiving workforce that will be needed to support the 60,000 Minnesotans turning 65 this year, next year and every year through 2030.
Evers has already started promoting opportunities available in long-term care through her mentor program, where people can train new employees and take on extra responsibilities to sharpen their skills to help advance their careers.
Further, Evers has put together incentives to recruit caregivers to Vista Prairie Communities, including flex positions where workers can build their own schedule that works best for them.
At the end of the day, Evers knows more can be done, especially at the state level.
“It can’t be a senior living problem anymore, it has to go further than that,” she said.
Rachel Evers asked if Face Aging MN would share this message to Minnesota and anyone who helps provide care to seniors.
“To all the people working in the senior living industry, thank you, thank you! Your dedication, selflessness, and passion is what motivates me to bring awareness to our rapidly aging population and the need to take care of those working in this industry.
As we enter the very edge of our caregiver crisis, I challenge all of you to create an employee first culture. Build relationships with your staff, invest and develop your staff and most importantly care for your staff. We have some challenging times ahead of us and we not only need our current workforce but also a movement across Minnesota to care for our aging population.
We must care for our employees in order for them to care for our aging seniors. I am beyond blessed and honored to work with such amazing team members, residents and family members that allow me to work alongside of them and raise awareness to the senior living industry.
And to Minnesota, let’s take action, be innovative, be bold, and be the trailblazers to care for our aging population. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
– Rachael Evers