New Initiative to Tackle Caregiver Crisis, Influence Public Policy

A nonprofit organization focused on supporting the direct care workforce as well as the home care industry has launched a new campaign in hopes of influencing policy to help solve the growing shortage of health care workers.

New York City-based Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) launched its “60 Caregiver Issues” campaign this week to bring awareness to the industry’s need for five million caregivers in the next seven years.

Every few weeks until the end of 2018, the organization will focus on one of 60 caregiver issues it has identified through its research. The hashtag #60CaregiverIssues will be used to generate a discussion online.

“We found from research at PHI that we will need more than five million direct caregivers in the workforce by 2024,” Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy at PHI, told Home Health Care News. “We are also seeing the supply of workers isn’t meeting the demand. Workers are not taking these jobs for various reasons, like low wages and no benefits.”

Each issue is meant to spark public interest and inspire policy makers and long-term care leaders “to pinpoint what needs to be done to remedy the shortage and create a vibrant, sustainable system of long-term care,” according to the campaign’s website.

“The purpose of the campaign is discussing how we can all work together to address the broader crisis—looking at wages as one aspect of that,” Espinoza said. “We are asking how do we better finance and better streamline processes to meet the needs of everyone.”

Caregivers Are Dwindling

The first of the 60 issues is the shortage of paid caregivers in the industry and the reasons workers are leaving the sector at this time. This issue is accompanied by an issue briefing as well as a video.

Titled, The Future of Long-Term Care, the issue briefing focuses on eight signs that the shortage of paid caregivers is getting worse. The signs included in the brief are:

1. The population of older adults in the U.S. continues to rapidly age, igniting demand for long-term services and supports.

2. A sizable growth in elders and people with disabilities means a growing demand for paid caregivers: home health aides, nursing assistants and personal care aides.

3. The primary labor pool for direct care workers isn’t keeping pace with national trends, raising concerns about the broad appeal of this occupation.

4. Direct care workers are leaving the occupation in droves, often within a year, dissatisfied with low wages, marginal benefits and limited opportunities to advance.

5. The workforce shortage in paid caregivers might be affecting areas of the country differently.

6. Policymakers, long-term care providers and the general public are hampered by the lack of available data and research on the direct care workforce.

7. Home care providers and other long-term care entities cite the workforce shortage as a top concern for delivering quality care.

8. The shortage in workers extends beyond long-term care—and is garnering public attention.

Future issues will look at various topics such as training and advanced roles for caregivers, financing and a discussion of rights for direct care workers.

“We are at a critical juncture where we need to come up with bold ideas to remedy this workforce crisis,” Espinoza told HHCN. “We need to work together to solve this crisis.”

Read the first issue briefing in its entirety.

Written by Alana Stramowski

Alana Stramowski