Study Projects 2.5 Million More Home Care Workers Needed by 2030

As the nation’s senior population is projected to swell to enormous proportions in the coming years, the need for home care workers to serve this aging demographic will have to increase by the millions, a recent report portends.

At least 2.5 million more home health and personal care aides will be needed to provide long-term care services to American seniors between now and 2030, according to a study by UC San Francisco researchers published in the June 2015 issue of Health Affairs.

About 20% of Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030, and by 2050 there will be 19 million adults who will need long-term care services, notes the study which was supported by funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In efforts to accommodate the needs of this segment of the population in the years to come, researchers urge policy makers and educators to “redouble” efforts to recruit, train and maintain long-term care workers, especially home health and personal care aides.

“In terms of sheer numbers, the greatest need is going to be for home health and personal care aides, with well over one million additional jobs by 2030,” said the study’s lead author Joanne Spetz, PhD, professor at the UCSF Phillip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and associate director for research at the UCSF Center for the Health Professions.

The challenge, Spetz added, is that these are currently very low-paid, high-turnover, entry-level positions.

“A lot of people in these jobs are living in poverty while working full time,” she said in a written statement. “We have to figure out how to make them sustainable.”

Recent reports this year have indicated that employee turnover rates for personal care aides have spiked as high as 60%, all the while other findings have labeled the home health sector among the hottest job industries poised for growth over the next few years.

But even though there is a clear need for greater training and retention strategies for home care aides, there are few states that have any kind of training requirement for these personnel, Spetz noted.

“Unless the system begins to offer these workers a pathway for moving into nursing or case management, for example, these jobs will continue to be a revolving door to unemployment and jobs in other low-wage industries,” Spetz said.

Written by Jason Oliva