Nurses are skilled healthcare professionals that look after us when we’re most vulnerable, but the need for in-home nurses in Maryland is a growing concern for families who rely on the service. 

Single mother Kimberley Lanham decided to put her first born, Nathan Roby, who has cerebral palsy, under her care. And lately, she says she’s been struggling to find enough skilled nurses to care for Nathan in the comfort of their Hagerstown home.

“To even have a nurse every other day would be better than going four or five days without nursing, and it’s hard,” said Lanham.  

Hard, now that she is left without a weekend nurse. Lanham is a part of Maryland Medicaid’s Rare and Expensive Case Management (REM) program, which is for people receiving Maryland assistance with a qualifying diagnosis that are rare and expensive to treat.

21-year-old Nathan is cared for by two, 24-hour nurses as well as his mother. She says it’s been a difficult ride emotionally, mentally and physically. 

“He also has a seizure disorder that I have to monitor,” said Lanham. “I have emergency meds that I have to watch and give if he needs it.” 

A shortage of in-home nurses in Maryland is creating a lack of access for children and adults with disabilities who rely on their care. 

“Although I’m with a nursing agency, Optimal Health Care (OHC), they don’t have anyone. They don’t have anyone to send out. They don’t have anyone to do the hours. Everyone is going to other facilities to work,” said Lanham. 

These nurses are searching for better pay in other states, and even in Washington, D.C. According to health officials from Bayada Home Healthcare in Hagerstown, the dollar difference is incredible.

“That rate is $35.20, not only for Hagerstown, but for the whole state and it’s just not enough,” said Bayada Home Healthcare’s Director of Government Affairs, Shannon Gahs.

“We may get 84 hours, and only get 28 hours that’s actually provided for a week due to the shortages,” said Lanham.  

Brenda White is a Licensed Practical Nurse and has been caring for Nathan for almost 13 years. 

“You’re doing everything for a patient that can’t do anything at all for themselves, and you wonder, why. Why are they getting paid more?” said White. “They’re not doing half as what I’m doing.” 

“If I were to lose the two nurses I have right now, I probably would have no choice, but to put him somewhere,” said Lanham. 

Maryland Department of Health Officials says they’ve included a proposed 3 percent rate increase in the upcoming budget for licensed practical nurses, which would cost the state approximately $3.3 million total funds in the 2020 budget. 

Bayada Home Healthcare’s Director of Government Affairs Shannon Gahs further says, “because the Medicaid rates are so low, we are unable to do a lot of the services that we want to do now.”   

Families like Kim are hoping they can find nurses and caretakers soon, so that they can live safely within their homes and communities. 

“It’s mentally and physically and somewhat emotionally tiresome,” she said.  

An estimated one million new registered nurses will be needed by 2020, according to a report by the World Health Organization.