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Home Care Workers in the News

September 4, 2014

Over last two weeks, the poor quality of home care jobs have been highlighted in the news.

Wall Street Journal

An article in the Wall Street Journal published on August 22 explains that home care is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation, but the work is difficult and the wages are low. Consequently, the turnover is high, “around 40 percent to 65 percent each year.”

“But the main problem isn’t attracting new home-health aides,” reports Sarah Portlock in “Help Wanted (a Lot): Home-Health Aides.” “It is keeping caregivers in a profession that can be emotionally and physically difficult, and often offers only part-time work with limited pay and few benefits.”

Karen Kulp, president of Home Care Associates in Philadelphia, a PHI affiliate, explains how difficult it is to increase workers’ wages because of the reimbursement system.

“For us especially, our pay rates are based so much on what we get reimbursed,” Kulp says. “If we’re going to want to raise those rates, we have to think about reimbursement on the federal level.”

Dorie Seavey, PHI senior policy research advisor, says that the “ad hoc rate-setting methods rarely allow for an evaluation if wages are adequate or reasonable,” which “really is the key impediment to improving compensation.”

Star Tribune

The Star Tribune reported on September 1 in “Health Care Adds Jobs, at Low Pay” that the majority of new health care jobs in Minnesota since the recession are low-paying home care aide jobs, due to the increasing demand for in-home services and supports.

PHI Midwest Policy Director Hollis Turnham explains that home care workers require many skills to perform their job, including “soft skills” like communication, resourcefulness, problem-solving, the ability to notice patterns and know when to call the nurse.

“Those are not low skills,” Turnham said. “They are undervalued skills.”

PHI Letter to Chicago Sun-Times

After the Chicago Sun-Times published an article about a Little League champ who is homeless despite the fact that his mother has a job as a home care aide, PHI Midwest Program and Policy Manager Tameshia Bridges Mansfield responded with a letter to the editor.

“Unfortunately, the struggles of Jaheim’s mother to find sufficient-paying work are common for home care aides across Illinois. Home care is one of Illinois’ fastest-growing occupations, yet many of those who do this valuable work supporting seniors and people with disabilities are unable to support their own families,” wrote Mansfield in the letter (scroll to second letter) published on September 1.

— by Deane Beebe

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