Every three months, home health care agencies in Massachusetts are replacing 15 workers on average, according to a new report from the Home Care Aide Council. And it appears that many workers might be leaving despite feeling high job satisfaction.
Agencies hire an average of 18 new home care aides per quarter, meaning their net gain of staff is only three people. That turnover can have a tremendous business impact on providers, particularly during a period of high demand for in-home care services and a shortage of qualified workers.
Associations like the Home Care Aide Council, a non-profit founded in 1967 with more than 120 home care agency and community-based organizations in Massachusetts, are hoping that sharing facts and figures on the workforce reality of home care can lead to higher reimbursement rates, which could help support better pay.
Finding and keeping care staff
One of the most important report findings was that nearly 40% of workers stated they intend to leave their job as a home care aide (HCA) in the next year. However, workers tended to be satisfied with caregiving.
“There was high job satisfaction, but interestingly, even with high satisfaction, a really high number intended to leave the job,” Hayley Gleason, assistant director of the Home Care Aide Council and research lead on the report, told Home Health Care News.
Furthermore, the availability of high-quality workers to meet the rising demand is harder and harder to find, said Matt Kroll, practice leader, assistive care with Bayada Home Health Care. Bayada operates 335 offices across 22 states, including 18 in Massachusetts.
“We’re definitely feeling the pinch on the recruiting side,” Kroll said. “It’s harder for us to attract and hire high-quality candidates now than it has ever been. Our retention rates beat the industry rates… but [there’s] no doubt the labor shortage is getting worse every year.”
A growing economy and well-employed workforce, plus more competition in the market, has heightened this challenge.
“Five years ago, when the economy wasn’t as great, great people could always be found,” Lisa Gurgone, executive director of the Home Care Aide Council, said. “New people were coming in the door. What we are seeing now is a good economy, lots of people getting jobs and hiring bonuses, and people not coming in anymore.”
Coupled with the low pay, home care isn’t attracting enough new interest from workers who simply have other options.
“We’re dealing with a major crisis not having the workers to meet demand,” Gleason said. “We’re hoping this can shed light to a wider audience.”
HCAs and home health aides (HHAs) are some of the fastest-growing occupations in the country, with demand expected to increase 25% for HCAs and 38% for HHAs from 2014 to 2024, while the workforce is among the lowest paid, according to the report, which was funded by Tufts Health Plan Foundation.
That growing demand has created a mindset for providers in the industry to always be on the lookout for quality workers.
“Generally speaking, we say, ‘Always be recruiting,’” Kroll told HHCN. “We can never stop. The demand is high. There are more people that need our help than caregivers that can provide help.”
The report also revealed that 96% of HCAs are female and 40% of their households make less than $19,999 annually. More than half of the workforce reported being on at least one public benefit and nearly half were born outside of the United States.
Not only does this workforce face many difficulties, but even measuring and finding data on the workers themselves is challenging. The report is the first such study the association has done.
“It’s a difficult population to study,” Gleason said. “They are decentralized, hard to reach and they are not around very long. It’s a complicated workforce.”
In addition, state regulations vary across the country, which can make even defining a HCA “hard to do,” Gleason said. Researching the workforce and spreading the data is essential for advocating for the industry, including bringing about better reimbursement rates for services from states, according to the Council.
“We got the grant as the first step. We are hoping the state will see the value looking at the data,” Gurgone said.
Read the full report here.
Written by Amy Baxter