Healthcare Technology Featured Article

April 26, 2013

US Must Address Looming Senior Caregiver Shortage

As the Baby Boomers start to retire, more seniors will require home healthcare than ever before. According to PHI PolicyWorks, the U.S. will need five million caregivers by 2020, which means adding 1.6 million additional caregivers to the current workforce.

Unfortunately, many senior care agencies note a lack of candidates for these jobs. The labor shortage is significant in terms of both qualifications and volume. High turnover rates of between 44 to 65 percent for caregiver jobs add to the shortage. Additionally, the average age of a caregiver is 55. The current workforce, like the Baby Boomers, is starting to retire.

Recognizing the need for more caregivers in the workforce, the Affordable Care Act set up two organizations: the Personal Care Attendant Workforce Advisory Panel and the Personal and Home Care Aide State Training (PHCAST) program. 

The first program evaluates working conditions like wages, education and training for caregivers, while the second has awarded funding to six states to create core competencies, pilot training curricula and certification programs for caregivers.

In addition to uneven training standards, senior caregivers face a number of job hazards. They risk musculoskeletal injury from lifting patients and performing housework; blood-borne disease from needlesticks; and latex sensitivity. They also often work with patients who have mental health problems and may exhibit violent behavior.

Additionally, personal care workers like senior caregivers experience the highest rates of depression of any occupation in the country, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Because of these risks, caregivers experience twice the number of lost workdays from overexertion injuries as general industry workers and twice as many assaults. They also experience 13 times more transportation incidents than general industry workers. PHI PolicyWorks estimates that personal care workers travel more than 5 billion hours per year.

The Institute of Medicine has expressed concern about the low wages paid to caregivers. The wages, according to the Institute, do not support the recruiting and retention of workers. Personal care aides and home health aides make less than $10 per hour. Additionally, agencies often do a poor job of giving workers enough hours to qualify as full-time, so caregivers often do not receive benefits like health insurance and travel reimbursement.

myCNAjobs is a job portal that recruits qualified candidates for home caregiver and certified nursing assistant (CNA) jobs. According to Brandi Kurtyka, myCNAjobs's Chief Marketing Officer, “The hiring tools equip agencies with the tools needed to quickly tap into local caregivers sourced from a variety of sources that are on-the-bench and ready to work at prices lower than most job boards."

Until the healthcare industry changes the way it compensates senior caregivers, however, and until working conditions are improved, recruiting and retention will continue to suffer.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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