Despite “massive” need for home health aides and other personal care workers, little is being done to increase the size of this labor force by bettering wages and working conditions, experts said during the May 1 edition of The Diane Rehm Show.
“There’s a massive need… but we’re doing nothing to boost the supply for this massive need,” said Val Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, a group that represents home care and hospice companies. “There is very little effort to bring qualified people into this field.”
The Department of Labor has classified home care workers as the “single category we need more [workers in] than any other job in the next 20 years,” says Halamandaris. The industry itself is valued at about $84 billion.
There are currently about 2.5 million home care workers in a workforce that is the fastest growing occupation in the nation, according to Carol Regan, government affairs director at PHI (Paraprofessional Health Institute), an organization that represents home care workers.
“The situation for these workers is somewhat difficult: they’re really low-paid, about $9.50 an hour. Most are part time, and there’s a tremendous amount of turnover,” Regan says.
There’s a 50% turnover rate for this labor force, who typically work in nursing homes or other senior care settings—and increasingly in the home, according to Susan Dentzer, senior policy advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
One of the biggest reasons for this is the current minimum wage requirements, the panel agreed during the radio segment, stemming from home care workers being exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act protection.
Under current classification standards, home care workers are essentially considered babysitters, says Bruce Vladeck, former director of Medicare and Medicaid during the Clinton Administration.
Listen to The Diane Rehm Show radio show.
Written by Alyssa Gerace