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'There's No One Here To Help Us': Staff Shortages Devastating Senior Living Facility Residents

PINE RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) -- Some families in northern Minnesota will spend the holiday weekend trying to find new living arrangements for their loved ones.

A worker shortage at a senior living apartment in Pine River means elderly residents won't have the supervision they once did.

It's an example of how staffing crises in long-term care have left older Minnesotans in limbo.

After spending the last five years at Riverside Senior Living in Pine River, Pat Gordon has no choice but to pack up and leave.

"I did not want to move. I love it here," Gordon said. "The seniors are being kicked to the curb."

Come Dec. 1, the assisted-living services the 78-year-old needs for her emphysema and memory issues will end. Around-the-clock care will dwindle to two people on site during weekdays -- for the 28 residents.

"If we put food on the stove and forget it, we're gonna have a fire. There's no one here to help us," Gordon said.

Riverside Senior Living in Pine River
(credit: CBS)

People were given 30-days' notice of the change. In a statement, Good Samaritan Society executive director Mike Deuth says the pandemic has put unprecedented stress on the senior care industry.

"For those who wish to move, we are committed to ensuring a smooth transition and have resources available to help residents find new homes and care," Deuth said.

He points to assisted-living rooms available at its other care campus across the river. But the group we talked to didn't want the medical setting that goes along with it.

Another resident, Dolores Zaske, noticed the staffing struggles through the pandemic.

"It started very slowly, and all of a sudden people weren't showing up to work," Zaske said.

The 89-year-old feels fortunate she doesn't need the assisted-living piece at this point, and plans to stay as long as possible. She's frustrated for her friends who don't have that option.

"We don't have a voice," Zaske said.

There are currently 23,000 job openings at senior living organizations throughout Minnesota. That's about 20% of that industry.

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