Anonymous gift helps Omaha-area caregivers program

Heritage Communities used program initially set up for Heartland Flood victims to ease burdens on staff
6 News WOWT Live at 10
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 10:56 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The 4.5 million professionals providing care to America’s aging parents and grandparents take on what most families can’t.

“Caregivers need support from family and from the community to help them with this very, very difficult task,” Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Research Center said.

But nursing homes and eldercare facilities lost 15% of their workforce after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. So with 14 assisted living, independent living and memory care locations, Omaha-based Heritage Communities wanted to ease burdens on their staff.

“Sometimes stuff happens, just happens,” Fox Run assisted and independent living executive director Don Ridder said. “Then what? We were finding that it was happening so much, they couldn’t afford to be with us anymore, they had to do something altogether different, something they didn’t want to do.”

So they turned to a program originally started at Heritage during the Heartland Flood of 2019, a company associate care fund. Now, they’ve provided 87 employees with financial assistance.

Lidia Assman has only worked for the company for less than a year, but has seen the impact the focus has had on other caregivers. She agrees that assistance programs are a way to keep those who love this work in the field.

“It gives staff members who are struggling at home or have a ton of health bills and stuff, it gives them the opportunity to come to work and be here, and still able to get on their feet and care for their family,” she said.

The story came to light because of an extraordinary donation of $40,000 from an anonymous couple who have lived at one of the Heritage facilities for several years, and were looking for a way to thank the caregivers and staff who have been there for them. Don Ridder said he’s never seen such a generous donation, seemingly out of the blue.

“This is special, but so are the people that gave us this,” he said. “They wanted to stay anonymous, because that’s who they are.”

“So of course, we’re gonna do exactly what they asked us to do, we’re gonna use this money to support our staff,” he continued. “And its gonna go right into our care fund, so staff who are having trouble, are gonna be able to benefit from these people who believe in us.”

Even before the pandemic, the field was suffering from a shortage of professionals caring for people in homes, residential care homes, nursing homes and hospitals. According to AHIP, the field is expected to grow by more than a million jobs by 2028 to keep up with the aging population.