Arizona parents now able to become paid caretakers for kids
Apr 4, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 5:32 am
PHOENIX — A new program in Arizona allows parents and guardians of medically-fragile children to become licensed health aides.
The legislation was passed last year, but now parents can officially train, test and receive certification. This means they can be hired by any Medicare-certified home care agency and get paid to provide the care they’ve already been giving to their children.
One Medicare-certified agency is Team Select Home Care, where Colby Kostur is the regional vice president.
“The parent would come through our LHA program,” he explains. “They would then come on board and get employed with us, and then they would provide the services that are physician-ordered and authorized by the state.
“It’s really a win-win all around. [They could] provide a lot of those services to their child themselves, as opposed to having someone else come in the home.”
That’s especially meaningful when things like the COVID-19 pandemic can affect the supply of nurses.
Laura Gjacs experienced the nursing shortage firsthand when it affected her daughter Tori, who needs round-the-clock care.
“We received nursing services from Team Select a few years prior,” Gjacs said. “But due to the nursing shortage, we haven’t received any skilled nursing in our home for a few years, just because there wasn’t anyone available.”
She adds that even before the pandemic, finding reliable nursing care was a challenge.
Now, however, Gjacs is a certified LHA and can be employed by Team Select Health Care instead of going to them for a nurse.
She says it frees her up to focus on caring for Tori without having to worry about another job to provide for the family, which would be difficult for most parents without a program like this in place.
“I’m fortunate to where my husband works so we were never destitute,” Gjacs said. “But how can a family work and how can a parent provide for their child when they don’t have nursing coverage?”
She recalls one instance that occurred while exploring different formula options for Tori where she found herself especially occupied.
“I was making calls to Phoenix Children’s [and I had to] be on hold for forever, so I could troubleshoot the situation so I could feed my child,” she says. “There’s no other job in the world that would allow me to do that.”
Colby Kostur agrees with the flexibility it provides.
“This really does give [parents] an opportunity to be able to be employed by the home care agency and bring in some income to the family as well… it also provides continuity of care for that patient,” Kostur said.
Beyond the opportunity of employment, Gjacs is glad the new openness of LHA certification officially recognizes the work and care she gives Tori every day.
“I think that it’s a great program where they recognize that parents are the primary caregivers,” she said. “The parents are the driving force in their children’s health care.”