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NPR Covers the Home Care Workforce

October 18, 2012

National Public Radio (NPR) aired two segments about the home care workforce on October 16 and 17.

The first, “Home Health Aides: In Demand, Yet Paid Little,” explains that while there is an increasing demand for home care workers, low wages and inadequate training make it hard to attract and retain workers to build the workforce our nation needs.

Reporting from a training program at the Bronx-based Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), a PHI affiliate, NPR’s Jennifer Ludden tells listeners that agency provides an “extensive” month-long training program for new workers, which helps to recruit workers and reduce turnover.

Providing home care aides with career advancement opportunities is another strategy that improves the quality of home care jobs — and lowers health care costs, CHCA President Michael Elsas explains in the segment.

For example, he suggests that aides can be trained with new skills, such as monitoring and reporting changes in a patient’s condition through new technologies, which could reduce doctor visits and possibly hospitalizations.

Ludden reports on the “decades-old” exemption of home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections, which Elsas says “drags down wages across the field.”

“In a typical supply-demand situation, if demand is greater than supply, then wage rates would rise to clear the market,” PHI Policy Research Director Dorie Seavey says in the radio interview. However, supply and demand don’t really work when it comes to home care aides, Seavey tells Ludden.

Also featured in the segment are home care workers who visited their legislators on Capitol Hill on September 21 to advocate for fair pay.

An Aging Workforce

The second radio spot, “Home Health Aides Often As Old As Their Clients,” highlights the aging of the home care workforce. It features two older home care workers, including Rosalie Lewis, an 80-year-old home care aide who cares for her 86-year-old client in DC.

Ludden cites PHI 2010 demographic data, noting that “more than a quarter of aides are 55 or older, a share that’s expected to rise to a third by 2020.”

“It’s older workers who tend to stay in the job,” says Marla Lahat, executive director of Home Care Partners in Washington, D.C., where Ms. Lewis is employed.

— by Deane Beebe

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