There has been an ever-increasing focus on recruitment and retention efforts for home care workers amid high turnover rates, the Fight for $15 movement and competition from other sectors. Given the diversity of today’s workforce, even more attention must be paid to specific populations, namely Latinos and immigrants, if home care agencies want to adequately provide for their staffs.
A significant portion of the 1.4-million-strong home care workforce consists of Latino and immigrant populations, with about 440,000 Latino home care workers and approximately 550,000 immigrant workers, according to a recent report by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute. These figures alone portray the importance of better serving these workers, as do the stories from frontline Latina home care workers themselves.
Take Maria Luna, a 40-year-old Latina home care worker in Illinois. Having worked for an agency for five years, Luna maintains three clients and earns just $10.50 an hour, with three children to support and two still living at home with her.
Luna struggles with her job for many reasons, she tells Home Health Care News, specifically the pay considering the cost of living in areas like Chicago. She sells items at flea markets and food on the street to make up for any gaps in her income and expenses. And random schedules leave her scrambling to get from one end of the city to another, she says, making for very stressful days and at times, limited time with her kids.
“We need to take care of things,” Luna says. “I’m not getting younger, and the older people get, the more tired they are of working two jobs.”
Higher wages are a huge factor in boosting morale among Latino and immigrant workers, Caitlyn Connelly, a campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project (NELP), tells HHCN. But supporting them goes beyond fair pay and thoughtful and consistent scheduling for work-life balance. Agencies must be aware of the needs of their employees, and figure out ways to best accommodate them.
“Employers play a critical role in attracting and retaining a quality workforce,” Connelly says. “Part of doing that is going to be making sure you’re meeting and addressing the needs of the workers. One way of looking at it is, providing culturally competent care is made more feasible when you’re providing culturally competent work environments.”
This can be accomplished in several ways, she says. For example, Latina caregivers who may have trouble with English would require materials, outreach and trainings available in Spanish. For other immigrant groups, the same would be necessary in their respective languages. That way, agencies can ensure their workers are fulfilling their duties and know what’s expected of them, and that they’re informing them of their rights.
Additionally, equipped with the knowledge that the responsibilities of home care workers can leave them feeling isolated, it’s crucial that agencies provide opportunities for employees to connect with each other, Connelly says. This helps workers to appreciate the fact that they are indeed part of a team, and allows them to recognize the critical role they play.
“We often see some of the lowest-paying jobs being filled by people who have historically been marginalized,” she says. “We need to lift these jobs up and support these workers who are ensuring that older adults are able to remain in their homes.”
Solving the caregiving challenge will likely require that home care agencies tap into the immigrant labor pool, and leaders believe this will become more difficult.
It’s not that home care workers don’t love what they do, either. For Luna, caregiving has always been a rewarding aspect of her life. At the end of the day, though, the home care industry is a difficult place to work, regardless of ethnicity or background.
“This field isn’t easy for any worker,” Luna says.
Written by Kourtney Liepelt