Home care and home healthcare agencies could indirectly benefit from a $2.85 million federal grant to 33 volunteer agencies that help struggling caregivers and seniors. 

For the second year, the Community Care Corps, a partnership of three national nonprofits, administered the funds to organizations that span urban, rural and tribal communities across the U.S. and provide everything from transportation to home maintenance to shopping for seniors aging in place.

Among the recipients, St. Paul-based Living at Home Network  netted nearly $60,000 to fund two new programs helping homebound seniors in two rural Minnesota communities. LAHN Executive Director Mary Quirk told McKnight’s Home Care Daily her organization partners with many home health and home care firms to help fill service and care gaps for roughly 10,000 clients.

Mary Quirk

“Home health is all built around the fact that people at times are going to have to get into doctor appointments and that is where volunteer drivers are really the key link because everything can’t be done in the home,” Quirk said. “These things have to be hand in hand.”

Kansas City-based Shepherd’s Centers of America is using the $76,500 it received to expand a pilot program it launched last year in four states to Mississippi. The program will pair seniors with student volunteers from Mississippi Baptist Seminary who will accompany the older adults to medical appointments.

“This new program that we developed trains volunteers that go in and take notes for the older adult in the medical appointment and so if the older adult says ‘what medicine am I supposed to stop or increase,’ then they have it written down,” Center Director Sarah Cheney explained to McKnight’s Home Care Daily.”

Community Care Corps is a partnership of The Oasis Institute, Caregiver Action Network and USAging. The Administration for Community Living, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services, funded the grant. 

A little less than a quarter of the 126 organizations that applied for the grants got money this year, but that could change next year if Congress approves billions of dollars more for home-and-community-based services the Biden administration is seeking.

Caregiver Action Network CEO John Schall told McKnight’s Home Care Daily volunteer organizations are vital in carrying out the mission of HCBS and could get additional funding if Congress backs the administration’s plan.

“We know more and more that we are going to need more volunteers to do this type of work,” Schall said. “There are fewer family caregivers in proportion to the aging population and paid home care workers — who should be paid more and have better job security — we already don’t have enough of those people. So we are always going to need this ancillary help on the side through volunteer services.”

Schall also believes volunteer organizations could become a vital employment pipeline to home care and home healthcare agencies desperately in need of workers. 

“We’re hoping many of these volunteers will see that this can be rewarding work and it wouldn’t be bad to be paid for this,” Schall said.