STILLWATER, Minn. – A double amputee from Minnesota says that if it weren’t for the state’s shortage of personal care assistants, he’d still have his legs.
“I didn’t have anybody at night Monday through Friday and then nobody at all on the weekends,” said Dennis Prothero, a veteran who lives in Stillwater.
Since a car accident left him a quadriplegic nearly 20 years ago, Prothero has needed personal care assistants (PCAs) who can act as lifelines to the clients they serve.
Prothero says PCAs help him get in and out of bed, change clothes, shower and eat. Finding PCAs has become more difficult for him.
This summer, without the help, Prothero found himself sleeping in his chair night after night. Sores that developed on his feet got infected, and doctors were forced to amputate below his knees.
“If I had been sleeping in bed, with the help of a PCA to get in and out of bed in the evenings, I wouldn’t have had this,” Prothero said.
Some PCA providers have stopped taking on new clients because they can’t find the PCAs to help.
“It’s so heartbreaking to keep saying no, but it’s no from everybody,” said Dena Belisle, the president of the Minnesota First Provider Alliance. “It’s a hard job, so it sometimes burns people out.”
Minnesota had more than 7,000 vacancies in the personal care industry at the end of 2021, the latest year of data available. The median wage was $14 an hour.
“I’ve had [PCAs] that I had for quite a while, but they all left for jobs that paid more, and you can’t blame them for that,” Prothero said. “This is a very real problem.”
Right now, Prothero has family members helping him at night, but he says that’s a temporary fix.
As for possible solutions to the shortage, Belisle says legislators will need to let PCAs be paid more by state reimbursements.