ELDERCARE: Booming Economy Sparks Shortage of Home Aides
A booming economy, low unemployment rates and Medicare cuts have spawned a shortage of home health care aides across the country, the New York Times reports. Low-wage workers who typically have filled the positions, primarily women in their mid-20s to mid-40s, are turning to fast food restaurants and retail outlets, such as Target, where they are assured a steady, full-time job with about the same pay and benefits. A recent national survey conducted by North Carolina revealed that almost every state is struggling to fill the void in elderly care, and tens of thousands more home health care aids will be needed in the next few years as the number of elderly rise, causing a 76% increase in available positions.
Better Alternatives for Workers
But current economic conditions have rendered the job, in which workers provide "unpleasant and dangerous" services, less appealing compared to other new prospects. Carol Keintz, executive director of the New Jersey-based Home Health Assembly, explained, "In a bad economy, when you can't get any other job, and you have a sixth-grade education, being a home health aide is an attractive job. In a good economy, when Dunkin' Donuts doesn't care if you've got a sixth-grade education, it's tough to find people." Recent Medicare cuts have limited the number of visits the program will pay for, making the job unpredictable and placing greater demands on workers. Several states, including Connecticut, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland have set up task forces to tackle the pressing issue. Andy Van Kleunen, director of work force policy for the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, concluded, "As a nation, if we truly are concerned about our elders, we need to become more concerned about those people who are caring for them on a daily basis" (Rimer, 1/3).