Lewiston agency to drop homemaker support services

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Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice will no longer provide nonmedical homemaker support services beginning Jan. 1. 

CEO Kenneth Albert said the nonprofit agency will shut down its 18-year-old program because it’s been losing money for years and because the agency has struggled to find workers to do the job. 

“The workforce just hasn’t been there,” he said. “And the reimbursement to cover costs, expenses and overhead has just not been there, either.”

Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice will continue to provide medically necessary home care to people who are homebound, require skilled assistance and are under a doctor’s care. About 1,200 people receive those services. 

The agency’s hospice work will also continue.

Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice notified clients about the homemaker support program’s shutdown last week. It provided clients with several options, including hiring their worker on their own, following their worker to another agency or finding a new worker at a new agency. 

Bob Morris of Auburn was one of the people who learned his in-home workers wouldn’t be coming from Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice much longer. A 68-year-old Marine Corps veteran who has been paralyzed for decades, Morris relies on workers a couple of hours every morning to help him get out of bed, wash, dress and keep the house clean.

Without that help, “I’d end up in a nursing home of some sort,” he said.

Because he has multiple workers, he can’t simply hire someone on his own or follow a worker to another agency. He’ll have to find a new agency with workers who are available every morning, when he needs them.

That will likely be difficult. Maine is in the midst of a tremendous shortage of home care workers.

“(The loss of Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice’s program) is going to have an impact,” said Holly Zielinski, director of community services for SeniorsPlus in Lewiston, one of two agencies that coordinates home care service for state-paid clients. “It’s tough. It’s a shame because they’re so well-respected and they do such a great job in this area.”

Morris is looking for a new agency. He’s angry that Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice gave clients 30 days’ notice when it could take them longer than that to find help.

“I just think it’s very cold-hearted,” he said. “It would have been nice if they had given two months’ notice and I could have started making plans in November, but they dropped the letter bomb on us on Friday. And here you got the holidays. It’s totally screwed up.”

A spokesman for Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice said 30 days’ notice is customary in such situations. He added that the agency is confident that 30 days is enough time to transition and it will be available to help Morris find a new provider.

Albert, the CEO, said about a third of the 80 clients have already hired their workers on their own. Others are looking into new agencies.

“I’m confident that everybody will be taken care of,” Albert said. “And I’m also confident that the staff who are being displaced here will also be gainfully employed quickly.”

Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice employs four home-care staff members and uses 18 per-diem workers for this program. Albert said he hopes CNA-eligible workers will stay with the agency and work in its medical home care and hospice programs.

Workers who leave will likely have their choice of positions because agencies throughout the state are struggling to fill home care jobs.

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