Dealing With The Shortage of Caregivers in Home Care

For some agencies, getting customers is not the problem. Rather they are dealing with a short supply of services or service providers. Demand for home care is growing rapidly, as is the shortage of home care caregivers. In this blog we’ll take a closer look at the problem of caregiver shortages in the home care industry, and how best to navigate them.

It’s no secret in the industry that caregiver shortage is a worsening problem nationwide. Low pay, high turnover, and demanding labor are just a few of the factors to blame. The pandemic may have enhanced the problem. Many are concerned about how to solve the dilemma and the future of America’s seniors.

Strategies for mitigating caregiver shortages

It’s no secret in the industry that caregiver shortage is a worsening problem nationwide. Low pay, high turnover, and demanding labor are just a few of the factors to blame. The pandemic may have enhanced the problem. Many are concerned about how to solve the dilemma and the future of America’s seniors.

Baby boomers are aging. Here are some statistics.

  • each day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65
  • 52% of those over 65 will need long-term care services
  • 3 out of 4 seniors plan to age in place

Over the next decade, the senior population will continue to grow. By 2030, all of the baby boomers will be over the age of 65. Undoubtedly, the need for home care is increasing.

And unfortunately, this increased need is widening the gap between home healthcare demand and worker supply.

According to the US Census, there has been a demographic shift in America. A “gray tsunami” has changed the face of the population. Consequently, the country is facing many infrastructure and workforce challenges.

Moreover, the fertility rate has dropped. As a result, there are too few young people to take care of our aging elders. Some veteran caregivers who took leave during the pandemic are not returning to the workforce. And few new workers are entering the field.

A Worsening Problem

A new report estimates a national shortage of 151,000 caregivers by 2030. And just a decade later, the shortfall will more than double.

Home care companies already face a tedious challenge when it comes to caregiver recruiting and retention. How can agencies carry on with this worsening problem? Download Alora’s white paper here.

Finding lasting solutions to the problem has proven difficult. The existing landscape of caregiver policy is a patchwork of uncoordinated programs that fail to meet the current and future challenges for the industry. Consequently, individual states are working to mitigate troubles through special programs and initiatives. Some states have worker unions that are fighting for change.

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) ’s Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) scorecard ranks each state’s performance. Home care agencies can check how they compare to others in providing needed services.

While companies experiment with different solutions, the issues remain the same in every market. Agency leaders and workers nationwide can agree on the major factors that contribute to the caregiver shortage.

Why There’s A Caregiver Shortage in Home Care

For at least a couple of decades, experts have warned of an impending caregiver shortage. It has been apparent for some time that recruiting and retaining enough nursing assistants and home health aides would be hard.

Home care caregivers face challenges including:

  • Systemic low wages
  • Poor benefits
  • Heavy workloads
  • Low-grade working conditions
  • Societal stigmas

Have these factors worsened?

Low Wages

For home health aides, the median annual wage is $24,200. Compare this to the poverty limit for a family of four, $26,500. Not only is the pay low, but most home care workers also receive few if any benefits. Paid sick time and health insurance are uncommon in the industry.

Unfortunately, state programs or insurance companies set the rates. And then expect agencies to find ways to come up with the extra money to incentivize the workers.

Heavy  caregiver workloads

The workload for a home care worker is physically and emotionally exhausting. Caregivers work in patient homes which may be uncomfortable. When they are not on the job, many home health aides report they worry about their clients.

The stress level is high. Home care turnover is high.

Read Alora’s blog about caregiver burnout here.

The demand for home care workers is increasing. Likewise, the burden on those left to fill the need is growing too.

Societal Stigma

Home care workers are essential for patients and agencies to function. Yet, there is a stigma. Those outside the healthcare industry may not hold aides or caregivers in very high regard. Home care caregivers are considered unskilled workers. The job is considered entry-level, and there is little opportunity for advancement without formal education. Many feel undervalued for the work they do. Others may feel there is a lack of respect. One worker said, “The problem is that the people in these jobs always get the same low level of respect no matter how many years they are in the job.”

The Pandemic Impact

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated job losses of 342,000 in the direct care workforce last year. Losses came from layoffs, resignations, and early retirements. The industry has not yet recovered. As a result, there are over 800,000 on the Medicaid waitlist for home care. Some home health agencies have started their waiting lists. Worse yet, some agencies have to turn away business.

Congress has voted on an infrastructure bill that would have included provisions affecting home health care. Some were hopeful that the proposal might have expanded access to long-term care services and raised the wage for home care workers. While others are skeptical that additional funding would do little to solve the underlying issue, a shortage of caregivers.

What We Can Do

Home care aides and caregivers are essential.

For agencies of all sizes, showing appreciation and support to workers will lead to loyalty. Also, employees who feel valued are more likely to recommend their employer to others.

To deal with the shortage of caregivers in home care, agency leaders can improve retention with little effort or expense. Some ideas for employee appreciation include:

  • Appreciation-themed, grab-and-go lunch to celebrate the staff
  • Gift baskets with items they will use or things to help relax (think compression socks, gift certificates, nurse bags)
  • Recognition Board or newsletter, let staff recognize each other and publish the commendations
  • Professional development opportunities, such as free CE hours/courses

 

The bottom line is that the home care industry must make changes that will deal with the shortage of caregivers long-term. And those who employ home care workers can start by focusing on meeting the needs of their caregivers. Providers can advocate for home care workers on a national level through political organizations. State groups can work to make changes where they live.

Author’s Note: Views, information, and guidance in this resource are intended for information only. We are not rendering legal, financial, accounting, medical, or other professional advice. Alora disclaims any liability to any third party and cannot make any guarantee related to the content.

Alora helps agencies serve their administrative and caregiver staff with a mobile-ready, user friendly software solution. Alora offers reports and analytics to help you monitor personnel, performance, productivity, and much more. Simply put, we help you manage your agency and your team better.

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