February 23, 2017
On Wednesday, February 22, the New York State Assembly Committee on Health, Committee on Aging, Committee on Labor, and Task Force on People with Disabilities held a hearing on the home care workforce. PHI New York Policy Manager Allison Cook testified on behalf of PHI.
Cook’s comments highlight the challenges facing the home care workforce. These challenges are especially urgent due to the workforce shortage facing much of the state, as well as high home care aide turnover rates. This workforce instability is the result of low wages, poor benefits, and limited opportunities to advance.
In her comments, Cook referred to her own experience as a home care aide:
The growing shortage of home care workers is no surprise. I can speak from personal experience when I say home care jobs can be both physically and emotionally draining. During my time as an aide, I had many bad days — for example, when a woman with advanced dementia slapped my face for trying to help her from the toilet to her wheelchair. Despite the times I wanted to give up and cry, I stayed because I could see the difference I was making in the lives of my clients and their families. Working as a home care aide gave me tremendous respect for those who choose this career and is the reason why I work to support these invaluable workers.
Recommendations for Improving Recruitment and Retention
To address the challenge of recruiting and keeping sufficient numbers of workers to meet the rising demand for home care throughout the state, Cook recommended an array of potential solutions, including the following:
- Adjust Medicaid rates and rate-setting policies to improve wages and encourage recruitment and retention of home care aides;
- Fund pilot programs for innovative recruitment and retention solutions;
- Create a statewide home care advocate similar to the Office of Paid Care in New York City;
- Improve training standards; and
- Conduct a landscape study on the state’s direct care workforce.
The hearing came on the same day that PHI released the second issue in its #60CaregiverIssues Campaign, which looks at job quality for home care aides in New York. This report found that government actions have had the greatest positive impact on job quality. In her testimony, Cook emphasized that government action must continue to address the workforce shortage and ensure that New Yorkers have access to quality home care. Read the full testimony (pdf).
--by Karen Kahn