LeadingAge Debuts IMAGINE: Workforce Initiative for an Aging America

Press Release | December 05, 2019 | by Lisa Sanders

“We don’t even have people to interview, much less hire. Last year, we had 9,000 RN, LPN, and CNA jobs in our state and only 2,500 applicants.” -- LeadingAge member, 2018

Contact: Lisa Sanders
lsanders@leadingage.org / 202-508-9407 
December 5, 2019 Washington D.C. -- LeadingAge, the association of mission-driven, aging-focused organizations, today announces the release of the IMAGINE Initiative, a bold set of proposals aimed at addressing the U.S.’ paid caregiver shortage crisis.

By 2030, America will need 2.5 million caregivers working in the field of long-term services and supports in order to meet the needs of our country’s rapidly aging population. There are not enough American-born workers to meet current and projected future demands. Unemployment rates, currently at 3.6% nationally, are at a historic low. Unpaid family members, the traditional informal providers of care for older family members, are declining in number, due to multiple factors, ranging from lower birth rates and increased geographic mobility to women’s increased participation in the workforce and changing family dynamics. The upshot: in addition to the domestically-based solutions to this crisis for which LeadingAge has long advocated, immigration must be part of the answer.

“The recommendations in our IMAGINE Initiative will ensure that, as the U.S. population ages, our nation will have enough qualified, committed workers to care for people with LTSS needs in all settings,” says Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge President and CEO. “The shortage of caregivers is the greatest challenge facing senior care providers and the older adults they serve.”

Foreign-born workers already play a valued role in the long-term care field. More than a quarter of the current nursing home and home care workforce is comprised of people born in other countries. IMAGINE’s key proposals, pursuable alone or as a package, include:

  1. Enact an ‘H2Age” temporary guest worker program for certified nurse aides (CNA) and home care aides.
  2. Expand the EB-3 visa program to allow more foreign-born direct care workers to enter the U.S.
  3. Modify the EB-3 visa to increase the number of visas available specifically to address LTSS needs.
  4. Modify the R-1 visa program to provide religious visas to temporary workers in faith-based organizations.
  5. Enact “Carer Pairer,” a new authority under the J-1 visa program, to include aging services workers in addition to child care workers.
  6. Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to include aging services workers.
  7. Increase the number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. and take steps to employ those refugees in the LTSS sector.

Explained in greater detail in IMAGINE: International Migration of Aging and Geriatric Workers in Response to the Needs of Elders, these policy solutions represent a starting point in LeadingAge’s quest to strengthen the LTSS workforce. Additional proposals may be added as new opportunities arise.

About LeadingAge: We represent more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we address critical issues by blending applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building. We bring together the most inventive minds in our field to support older adults as they age wherever they call home. We make America a better place to grow old. For more information: www.leadingage.org