Dealing with a Potential Shortage of Home Care Workers in the Coming Years
How serious is the alleged ‘shortage’ of home care aides and other providers? As some might argue, there is going to be a serious problem in the years ahead due to a number of factors. One of the most significant is that the baby boomer generation is now reaching retirement age and as the overall percentage of seniors in the U.S. increases, there will be greater demand for support services.
More seniors today would prefer to remain home, even when facing serious challenges and health issues. This desire to ‘age in place’ means there is going to be a greater demand for in home care support services. This is already playing out as the home care industry is currently the number one job creator in the country and is expected to remain at that position for the foreseeable future.
However, with a high stress job, low wages, low benefits packages, and high turnover, there are serious concerns about how this will impact access to care. On top of these problems, the federal government has dramatically cut Medicaid reimbursements for home care services as a way to help pay for the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. These factors, combined, appears to be bringing the industry to a tipping point.
The Chicago Tribune noted in its blog, ‘‘Crisis mode’: As boomers age, a shortage of caregivers,written by Robert Channick:
““We are absolutely in a crisis mode,” said Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy for New York-based PHI, a direct care workforce research organization. “Providers are routinely reporting that they can’t find and they can’t keep direct care workers, which makes it impossible to provide the care that consumers need.” Sometimes a supplement to family caregivers, sometimes the only option, paid caregivers provide seniors with support for the activities of daily life, such as bathing, dressing and eating. More than half of home caregivers have a high school education or less, according to PHI, and their pay is on par with wages for fast-food and retail workers.”
There are plenty of opinions, advice, counsel, and ideas that could impact access to quality care, but it appears as though the solutions are far more complicated than just raising wages and benefits to entice higher quality caregivers and retain them longer. One thing is clear though, and that is if agencies and other individuals with a vested interest in this industry don’t think long-term, some men and women may be extremely limited on the level of care and support they could receive at home.