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Home care challenges await aging boomers – Lockport Union

The home medical care industry will face a shortage of caregivers as aging baby boomers attempt to stay in their homes. The lack of qualified workers, ever-increasing costs and a huge shift in demographics have America facing a major crisis. There aren’t going to be sufficient numbers of geriatric staff to make certain seniors are OK when they can no longer care for themselves.

It’s a problem that not many families anticipated but one that many will have to face. It frequently becomes evident that falls, lapses of memory and a number of maladies all take a toll on elderly relatives and some may need help. There is a tidal wave of baby boomers being diagnosed now with some form of dementia.

“We are absolutely in a crisis mode. Providers are routinely reporting that they can’t recruit and they can’t retain direct care workers, which makes it impossible to provide the care that consumers need,” said Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy for the New York-based Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a direct care workforce research organization.

At times, professional caregivers complement family caregivers and they are the primary choice for supporting seniors in the daily activities of life, such as eating, dressing and bathing. Over 50 percent of home caregivers have a high school education or less, according to PHI, and the pay they receive is about equal to wages received by fast-food and retail workers.

With the push to give fast food workers $15 an hour the wage gap between the two could widen and cause more care aides to opt for flipping burgers. The working conditions can be very, very trying, so why not just go a few doors down the street to McDonald’s and make as much or more money? Employers now struggle to hire and keep home health care workers, who make a median hourly wage of $10.49 per hour, or about $13,800 per year, according to PHI. Two-thirds of caregivers work part time.

However, their wages might grow appreciably over the next few years due to the fact that the U.S. population is rapidly aging. About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Over half of them will need some type of long-term care eventually, a 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates.

There are many nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but more and more seniors are looking to remain in their own homes as they grow older. You can’t replace the feeling of living in the home you might have lived in for decades and possibly raised your children in. I just completed a first-floor addition for this reason and it will enable my wife and I to stay in our home longer.

For many families, trying to navigate the maze of state-regulated home care service agencies to locate the right caregiver won’t be easy, and it will be very expensive. The cost of home health care increased over 6 percent just last year, according to a report published by Genworth Financial, a Virginia-based firm that sells long-term care insurance. That is six times the rate of inflation.

Consumers pay a national average of $22 an hour for home caregiver services, or over $49,000 a year, according to the report, which is based on studies with over 15,000 service providers. Health insurance and Medicare do not completely cover these costs, and while Medicaid does help cover caregiver costs for seniors with chronic conditions who meet certain income requirements, most seniors do not qualify.

Home healthcare is one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., with the labor force expanding to 1.6 million over the past 10 years and another 600,000 jobs anticipated to be added over the next decade, says PHI.

Low wages, a lack of training and isolation are partly to blame for significant turnover amongst caregivers and the ongoing shortage of workers for the industry. Then again, maybe the hardest aspect of the job for many is not low wages but the inevitability of relationships with patients coming to an end.

Norb Rug resides in Lockport. Email him at:

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