While studies show older Americans prefer to age in place, there is a question about how the population will handle the services they require in order to do so.
The home health care industry is expected to see a boom in coming years, adding 1.3 million jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Department. “If those jobs can’t be filled,” writes the Associated Press, “many older Americans are likely to face living with relatives or in nursing homes, which will only cost families and taxpayers more money.”
The people employed by home health agencies are largely spread thin, sometimes across multiple agencies, the article finds. And their wages are often not reflective of the care they provide.
The AP article writes:
Some aides say they have no choice but to say no when people call looking for help because they can’t afford to take on someone else.
“It’s hard because I love helping people, but at the same time I’ve got three kids,” said Kimberly Ingram, a home health aide in Lancaster, S.C. “When you add up your miles, your gas money, you don’t make nothing.”
Her part-time job delivering newspapers pays better when you factor in the time and travel some home care jobs need, she said.
Nearly half of all home care workers live at or below the poverty level, and many receive government benefits such as food stamps, unions and advocacy groups say. The median pay a year ago was $9.70 per hour — 4 cents less than fast-food workers and short-order cooks, according to the most recent statistics from the Labor Department.
Agencies that supply home health workers blame states and the federal government for failing to increase reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare patients at a time when costs are going up.
Home health services are an easy target for cuts because they’re not required by federal law, and legislators in states with big deficits say they have no choice but to cut Medicaid spending, the second-costliest item for states behind education.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker