MINNESOTA'S SHAME: Disabled veteran Dennis Prothero has legs amputated due to severe caregiver shortage

Dennis Prothero had to spend up to 24 hours a day in his wheelchair due to the crisis, which left him with serious health issues

MINNESOTA'S SHAME: Disabled veteran Dennis Prothero has legs amputated due to severe caregiver shortage
Dennis Prothero, 68, was a volunteer fireman and also served in the US Army (GoFundMe)
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MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: Dennis Prothero, a 68-year-old army veteran who had cellulitis and bone infection in his legs, had to get both his legs amputated on October 21 - a situation which could have been avoided if he had the proper facilities and care that he required. Prothero, who was paralyzed in 2004 after being struck by a drunk driver, spent up to 24 hours a day in his wheelchair after losing the majority of his essential help last summer as a result of a crisis-level shortage of caregivers across the state.

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The frequent friction between his legs and the chair led to painful pressure sores. The lesions grew larger and, if left untreated, would have led to a more serious infection. Doctors decided that the only option to stop the spread was an emergency amputation on October 21 — almost three months after his personal helpers resigned or cut back on hours. Before the accident, his legs helped him run long-distance races and assisted in carrying him into burning buildings when he worked as a small-town firefighter. "My brother sacrificed his limbs to the caregiver shortage," said Gayle King, his older sister.

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Thousands of Minnesotans with severe physical impairments rely on state-funded caregiver services in order to remain at home. According to disability activists and home care providers, the shortage of home care workers has reached a critical stage for this vulnerable demographic. Some people have had to endure weeks or even months without treatment, endangering their health and freedom. Others have struggled to fill open shifts, making it difficult for them to receive regular assistance with necessities like clothing and washing, as well as transfers from wheelchairs, as reported by Star Tribune.

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(GoFundMe)
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Prothero's daughter to 'help him raise money to possibly be able to afford to pay for PCAs out of pocket' (GoFundMe)

According to the most recent state workforce statistics, the number of home healthcare job openings in the entire state increased by 60% to over 15,000 at the end of 2021, from 9,373 at the same time in 2020. Although the hourly wage for direct support occupations has crept up to roughly $15, it is still too low to draw candidates away from less demanding employment. According to a poll conducted this summer by a state trade group, more than a quarter of home health positions remain empty.

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Prothero believed that having his legs amputated surgically and having a 12-day hospital stay would result in greater assistance. Instead, without any additional support, he was returned to his Stillwater apartment. He started contacting and emailing every home care organization he could locate to restart his hunt for a personal care assistant, or PCA, almost immediately. Once he mentioned that he was a quadriplegic with significant medical requirements and that he was dependent on Medical Assistance, a government insurance program with a $19.60 hourly payment ceiling for home care providers, the majority of organizations rejected his application.

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"You could spend all day, every day on the phone trying to find a home care worker — and still come up empty," said Prothero, a former volunteer fireman. "So [hospitals] send you home and hope for the best."

(GoFundMe)
Dennis with his family who have stepped up to help him in the absence of professional help (GoFundMe)

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In the absence of professional help, many members of Prothero's family have volunteered to assist him in his daily activities, transporting him to bed on occasion and contacting home care providers for assistance. A GoFundMe page has been set up by Prothero's daughter to "help him raise money to possibly be able to afford to pay for PCAs out of pocket."

"In a country where we should have the best medical care, we seem to go out of our way not to take care of people," Prothero said. "Taking care of our disabled and our seniors is just not a priority. I know that I'm not the only person in this position, though my situation may be more," he said, pausing as he searched for the word. "Drastic."

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