Rep. Hamilton hears from constituents
WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Legislature may be on its Easter break this week, but it has been far from a break from District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) as he made his second visit to Worthington in two days Tuesday for a listening session on health care for the aging.
Hamilton, who conducted listening sessions on Monday with a contingent of Latino residents discussing the Dream Act, immigration reform and driver’s license issues, then toured the Northland Mall and met with business owners and local firefighters, said the Easter break gives him an opportunity to visit with constituents and hear about issues facing southwest Minnesota.
Topics during the informal listening session Tuesday evening at Worthington’s Living Life Adult Day Center ranged from public transportation for the elderly to streamlining paperwork and the added — unfunded — costs of electronic medical record implementation.
Lori Klooster, owner of Living Life, kicked off the meeting by sharing information about Worthington’s adult day center, the services it provides and its place in the future of health care for the elderly.
“(The industry) has been talking for several years about eventually moving from a typical long-term care facility to assisted living and more people staying at home and utilizing adult day services,” said Klooster, a registered nurse with more than 36 years experience.
She spoke of the Aging 2030 program, spearheaded by Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, Board on Aging and Department of Health, which is geared to prepare Minnesota for “a permanent shift in the age of our state’s population” as the baby boomers grow older.
Five key themes of Aging 2030 are redefining work and retirement, supporting caregivers of all ages, fostering communities for a lifetime, improving health and long-term care and maximizing the use of technology.
“Every 72 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We are going to have an epidemic if we don’t prepare for what’s going on,” Klooster said. “We can’t continue in the model we’re in. That’s where adult day centers come into play.”
The model has proven effective in other communities — Yankton, S.D., has had an adult day center for 40 years — but it isn’t the only type of service needed.
“We need to start getting things in place in southwest Minnesota,” Klooster said. “It’s not just one facility. If southwest Minnesota doesn’t get on track, we’re going to fall asleep at the switch.”
Hamilton, while a former member of the House Health and Human Services committee, said health care remains a high priority issue for him.
Transportation, however, dominated the discussion.
Joanne Bartosh, Nobles County Coordinator for ACE of Southwest Minnesota, formerly RSVP, asked if there was a way for volunteer drivers for ACE to be compensated for the miles they drive to get people to appointments. She spoke of one man who volunteered for five years, oftentimes five days a week, to transport elderly clients to appointments. He recently stopped because he just couldn’t afford to help out any longer. He paid for all of his own gas and had the wear and tear on his vehicle.
Transportation is also a challenge for the county’s veterans service officer, Bartosh said.
“His (clients) have to go to Sioux Falls and to the Cities,” she said. “He could enlighten you on some of the transit issues.”
Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson talked about the Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit system and the recent changes to streamline public transportation in the four counties of southwest Minnesota. He said one of the primary stumbling blocks with the service is that many people cross state lines to get to doctor appointments and state funds will not pay for public transit to travel outside Minnesota.
“I don’t know if people are disheartened to the point they just pay a neighbor to take them (to an appointment),” Bartosh said.
She also raised the issue of home-delivered meals.
“It’s supposed to be a meal to help people stay healthy — a nutritious meal — but there are barriers to get them to people,” she said, adding that if meals are delivered out of town, there is mileage reimbursement, but in-town deliveries do not qualify.
“It comes down to quality of life for the individual and how do we best serve that person,” Hamilton responded. “How can we do it in an efficient and effective manner?”
Bartosh said a local group is trying to build community support and community resources for the elderly to be able to direct people to the proper agencies and places for assistance.
“We’re trying to build programming to support caregivers and we’re trying to do it through community connections,” she said, adding that grants have been applied for to support caregivers in the home.
“It’s not that nursing homes aren’t going to be needed,” Bartosh said. The reality is that keeping people in their home is far less costly.
In regard to electronic medical records, several in the audience talked about the added time it takes to complete their work.
Rolf Carlson said it is creating extra work, and physicians say it has taken away from the amount of time they have to see patients. The electronic medical records were implemented through state mandate, and Hamilton said the idea was sold to legislators as a way for medical personnel to save time.
Carlson suggested there ought to be a cost analysis completed before a new law is written to determine how much it’s going to cost and if the state has funds in its budget to cover it.
“Should a doctor whose hourly rate is, say, $100, be spending his time typing?” asked Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation Manager Abraham Algadi. “Couldn’t that be done by someone paid $18 an hour?”
Hamilton thanked the nearly 20 attendees for their input and asked for their continued suggestions, direction and criticisms.
“These listening sessions are very important,” he said.
Hamilton will be in Worthington again on Friday morning for a Legislative Breakfast Listening Session at the Hickory Lodge.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.