Be Part of Workforce Solutions

Center Post

The disturbing workforce statistics included in a new report from PHI (the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute) won’t come as a surprise to providers of long-term services and supports.

But the report’s data, which describe the plight of home health workers, do serve to remind us of the significant workforce issues facing every single LeadingAge member. 

These issues must be addressed; they are not going away anytime soon.  

According to Caring in America, A Comprehensive Analysis of the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Jobs: Home Health and Personal Care Aides, our home and community-based workforce faces a number of serious hardships, including: 

  • Low wages: In 34 states, average hourly wages for personal care aides were below 200% of the federal poverty level wage ($10.42) for full-time workers in 1-person households.
  • Economic insecurity: More than half of home health aides (56.2%) relied on Medicaid or food stamps in 2009. More than a third (37%) had no insurance.  
  • A hazardous profession: Home health care workers are twice as likely as general industry workers to lose workdays due to on-the-job injuries or assaults.
  • Inadequate training: Only 5 states meet the 2008 Institute of Medicine recommendation that certified nursing assistants and home health aides receive 120 hours of training.

What do the Numbers Mean for Us? 

Our nation is hurtling toward a time in the not-so-distant future when we will need many more frontline workers to provide services and supports to our rapidly growing older population. Yet, the workforce we’re depending on to care for this future aging cohort is clearly undervalued. 

These workers hold the country’s lowest paying jobs. Their training requirements are both inadequate and poorly aligned with wages. They have paltry health coverage, high injury rates and unpredictable hours. They rely heavily on public benefits.

LeadingAge and its Center for Applied Research provide a host of resources to help aging services organizations change these troubling statistics. For example, we’re currently working on a project, in partnership with Social and Scientific Systems, Inc., to analyze the 2007 National Home Health Aide Survey for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Over the next few months, we’ll be evaluating the interrelationship among the characteristics of this workforce, their job quality and the quality of care they provide. We’ll keep you posted on this work.

In the meantime, I urge you to review the materials that we’ve developed, in collaboration with LeadingAge members, during several workforce initiatives. These initiatives include:  

  • Better Jobs Better Care, which identified and tested myriad strategies aimed at changing long-term care policy and practice in order to reduce vacancy and turnover rates, and improve workforce quality.
  • The LeadingAge Commission on Ethics in Aging Services, which made a number of recommendations to help providers develop ethical workplaces that provide fair wages, good benefits and career ladders.

These and other resources are the tools LeadingAge members need to become part of the workforce solutions that our field and our nation so desperately need. I hope you will use them to change the lives of the people who work for you, improve the quality of care they provide, and set a shining example that other organizations will follow.