Effort underway to connect licensed caregivers with those who need services

In recent weeks, an effort has taken root on the island to find families and individuals who may qualify for caregiving services paid for by the state and to bolster the numbers of individuals licensed to provide that care.

Through word of mouth and Facebook, island caregiver Annette Hilton has been trying to solve the problem of connecting people who need care to qualified caregivers, whom she and others say are in short supply on Vashon. An important milestone in that process is occurring tomorrow, June 21, at a session Hilton has organized for caregivers to help them become licensed through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Both current caregivers and those who would like to become licensed caregivers are welcome. Tomorrow’s event is part of phase one of Hilton’s effort, she said, and important to her goal of getting as many people licensed as possible. Soon she will move on to phase two, learning who in the community has been approved for state-paid care hours and connecting them to the right caregivers.

“This is not a for-today solution,” Hilton said. “This is a solution that is to be ongoing.”

Hilton, a licensed caregiver herself, said the seeds of this effort were planted while she was volunteering at the Vashon Senior Center, when a board member asked her how they might get more people licensed to provide care for individuals who the state has deemed eligible for paid care. The first suggestion, Hilton said, was to bring an instructor for the 75 hours of classes needed for licensure to the island. But Hilton said she expected it would work better to send people off-island to the modules of classes they need. While the classes are free, transportation is not, and Hilton and senior center officials are looking for ways to pay those transportation costs. Both Granny’s Attic and the Eagles are interested in assisting, she said, as is the senior center. Executive Director Catherine Swearingen said she will know next month whether funds she requested for the effort will come through in a grant. She noted center officials are particularly concerned with isolated seniors and their caregivers.

Hilton said that caregiving needs and state-approved hours can vary widely, from people who have an illness or disability and need a moderate amount of assistance to those who are in hospice and need considerable care. So far, 19 people have expressed interest in becoming licensed, and more are welcome, she added.

Licensed caregivers work directly for clients who have approved care hours from DSHS and earn $13.75 hourly from the state. However, Hilton said they are part of the union SEIU 775, which offers medical, dental, vision and life insurance at low cost to the employee if they work 20 or more hours per week.

The meeting to learn more and apply to become licensed is set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at the Vashon Senior Center. Applicants should bring a valid ID and Social Security card with them.

For more information, contact Hilton at breezy461ah@gmail.com or text her at 253-545-9869.

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