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STUDY: Researchers Identify Factors Associated with Longer Home Care Aide Retention

April 3, 2014

The findings of a study that explores the determinants associated with longer job retention for home care aides were published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

The study, entitled “Determinants of Longer Job Tenure among Home Care Aides: What Makes Some Stay on the Job While Others Leave?” followed 261 home care aides employed by 11 home care agencies in Maine for a period of 18 months.

“Marketplace” on Aging Direct-Care Workforce

Recently, the American Public Media program Marketplace aired a report on the aging of the direct-care workforce.

The researchers found that predictors of longer job tenure for home care aides included:

  • Older age
  • Living rurally
  • Lower physical function
  • Higher wages
  • Greater sense of autonomy on the job, and
  • Less frequent feelings of personal accomplishment

Aides who stayed on the job longer were “less concerned about low wages and inconsistent hours” than aides who left their jobs within a year, the researchers report.

Both groups of aides reported “high levels of job satisfaction.”

The researchers write that for the aides who stayed on the job, the part-time schedule associated with home care jobs “generally worked” and they often had other income in their household besides the home care job income.

The aides who left their jobs reported problems with low pay, lack of mileage reimbursement, inconsistent hours, and poor communication with their agencies.

Implications of the Findings

The study authors write that to promote retention, particularly among the aides who depend on their job to support themselves and their families, compensation for these jobs must increase — despite budgetary constraints for public funding like Medicaid, the primary payer of home care services.

They call the home care workforce a “two-part workforce” comprised of younger and older workers.

The researchers write that their findings suggest that the current structure and compensation level for home care jobs work better for older workers [see sidebar], who “may be happy with the part-time hours and autonomous nature of their work, and less dependent on the wages or in need of health insurance benefits.”  Younger workers, however, “may desire more supervision and support from their employers and may require more dependable hours, higher wages, and health insurance to support themselves and their families.”

The researchers suggest that until wages increase and more hours can be guaranteed, an “interim goal could be for home care employers and job developers to design home care jobs to be as attractive and accessible as possible for older workers.” For younger workers, they suggest that home care jobs be emphasized as “a stepping-stone to other health care work with more consistent hours, higher pay, and benefits such as paid sick leave and health care insurance.”

— by Deane Beebe

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