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Top 20 News Stories of 2018 on Direct Care Workers

November 8, 2018

Media outlets do more than relate the latest news and opinions–they shape the public’s beliefs about major issues. Their stories frame the national conversation and influence what policymakers consider important, bringing pressing issues to life.

This year, the news coverage on direct care workers seemed stronger than ever, covering an array of topics–immigration, transportation, nursing homes, and much more.

Here are 20 highlights.

1 | “Health Care Just Became the U.S.’s Largest Employer”


In the first quarter of 2018—and for the first time in history—the number of U.S. jobs in health care surpassed those in manufacturing and retail, a trend driven largely by the growth in older people and rising health care costs. The Atlantic explored this historic development, noting that personal care aides and home health aides will represent one in 10 new jobs over the next decade. (Jan 9, 2018)

2 | “How a Heated Immigration Debate Might Affect Grandma’s Care”


One of many articles over the last year that covered the role of immigrants in eldercare, this article from The Wall Street Journal drew an illustrative link between the care received by older people—or “grandparents,” which personalized the issue for readers—and the growing hostility toward immigrants, many of whom are on the front lines of that care. (Jan 22, 2018)

3 | “For Health Care Workers, the Worst Commutes in the City”


Delrisa Sewell-Henry, the New York City home health aide at the center of this article from The New York Times, spends hours every day on public transportation to reach her client. Long commutes are especially tough for home care workers, who can lose earnings for being late, as well as for their clients, who experience disruptions in their care. (Jan 22, 2018)

4 | “Helping Employers Find Success”


While other articles explored the negative consequences of anti-immigrant policies on the direct care sector, Provider Magazine took a different approach. It profiled an assortment of long-term care providers around the country that are intentionally recruiting foreign-born workers and instituting immigrant-friendly supports in their workplaces. (Jan 22, 2018)

5 | “If Immigrants Are Pushed Out, Who Will Care for the Elderly?”


The New York Times captured the immediate consequences of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant actions on the caregiving system: the growing fear among people who rely on home care workers to get through the day, as well as the challenges faced by long-term care employers that rely on immigrant workers and can’t find enough job applicants to fill positions. (Feb 2, 2018)

6 | “Maine Ballot Effort Would Mandate Home Care for Elderly, Disabled”


Long-term care is profoundly expensive, and people who don’t qualify for Medicaid have limited options. In response, states are increasingly considering policy options that would make long-term care more affordable to their residents. This Associated Press article covered a ballot initiative in Maine that’s part of the growing momentum for this approach. (Feb 4, 2018)

7 | “Where Will Our Home Care Aides Come From?”


Tax and retirement expert–and Forbes columnist–Howard Gleckman nicely summarized the pressures facing the home care workforce: low wages, few benefits, and the challenge of filling these positions, among others. Worse, many people can’t afford these services. Gleckman writes: “Demand for those aides will increase by 50% over just the next decade, to 3 million. But where will they come from?” (Feb 28, 2018)

8 | “As Trump Targets Immigrants, Elderly and Others Brace to Lose Caregivers”


When the Trump administration announced it would end Temporary Protected Status for various countries, including Haiti, Kaiser Health News investigated the impact of this change on workers, clients, and the broader caregiving system, where immigrants are substantial. Two Boston residents form the heart of this story: Nirva, a Haitian immigrant, and her client, Isolina, a 96-year-old Italian immigrant. (Mar 26, 2018)

9 | “Many Doctors Don’t Pay Attention to Home Health Care Plans”


How much time do physicians spend reviewing home health care plans for their patients? Forty-seven percent spend less than one minute, and only 21 percent spend more than two minutes. Reuters explored these startling findings, emphasizing the importance of strengthening relationships between doctors and the home care system, among other solutions. (Apr 2, 2018)

10 | “The US Can’t Keep up with Demand for Health Aides, Nurses and Doctors”


This article from CNN had one alarming statistic to substantiate its dire claim: by 2025, the health care system will need 2.3 million new health care workers, including nurses, physicians, lab technicians, and other workers. The largest need will be for home health aides, at about 423,000 jobs. And what’s the estimated shortage for home health aides in that period? 446,300. (May 4, 2018)

11 | “How Trump’s Immigration Policies Could Hurt Senior Care”


TIME magazine built on previous news stories about immigrants in the direct care sector by analyzing how these workers are being affected by the federal administration’s recent actions. It reported that about 34,600 workers originate from countries that will lose Temporary Protected Status in the next two years because of a new Trump-era policy. The article asks: without enough immigrants, who will take these poor-quality jobs? (May 10, 2018)

12 | “When Your Sexual Abuser Is Also Your Patient” >>


The #MeToo movement reached the home care industry this summer when The Huffington Post released an exposé on sexual harassment in home care, centered on a New York City home care worker experiencing sexual harassment from her client. The article also opined on the larger context: “All of which is to say this is a vulnerable group of workers, often shouldering the triple burden of racism, sexism and near-poverty wages.” (Jun 2, 2018)

13 | “‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years”


Nursing home advocates have long raised concerns about staffing levels at nursing homes and the measures used to assess staffing. This New York Times article blew the lid off this topic, exploring new data from Kaiser Health News that showed significant staffing challenges among more than 14,000 nursing homes–all based on new payroll records from Medicare, as required by the Affordable Care Act. (Jul 7, 2018)

14 | “Minnesota Rolls out First Statewide Job Board for Home Care Support”


Online job portals–or “matching service registries”–are gaining traction in states as a way for consumers to find workers who meet their needs and preferences–and for workers to find jobs or employers that match their interests. Minnesota’s Star Tribune reported on a new statewide portal in Minnesota that will do exactly that, making life easier for consumers and workers. (Jul 12, 2018)

15 | “Why Does One of the Most Needed Jobs Pay So Poorly? Pt. 1”

“The U.S. Needs More Home Care Workers. Is This the Solution? Pt. 2”


PBS traveled to Minnesota to examine the growing challenges in recruiting and retaining home care workers. The first part in this two-part series looked at the primary reasons for high turnover in this sector, including a $10 wage that has remained stagnant for years, making it difficult to compete with other low-wage industries. Part two explored solutions, including the potential of advanced roles in raising compensation levels for home care workers. (Jul 26, 2018, Aug 9. 2018))

16 | “Medicare Slashes Star Ratings for Staffing at 1 in 11 Nursing Homes”


Shortly after Medicare published new payroll data on nursing homes, Kaiser Health News (and The New York Times) uncovered severe staffing challenges in these homes, placing residents at enormous risk. In July, the Times published a follow-up piece on Medicare’s decision to lower its star rating on staffing levels, which affected one out of 11 nursing homes–1,400 in total. (Jul 27, 2018)

17 | “Little Wage Growth for Home Care Workers in Last Decade”


PHI’s annual data on home care workers and nursing assistants have provided an essential benchmark to assess how workers fare over time. Home Health Care News reported on an unnerving statistic in this year’s research: over the last decade, personal care aide wages increased by only 95 cents, while home health aide and nursing assistant wages dropped by 11 cents. Wages in this sector are at a standstill. (Sep 4, 2018)

18 | “Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not.”


The New York Times issued this searing and illuminating essay on poverty, challenging the notion that employment necessarily keeps people out of poverty. At the center is Vanessa Solivan, a home health aide in New Jersey, whose life vividly embodies how poverty becomes entrenched, perhaps unescapable, for many low-wage workers. (Sep 11, 2018)

19 | “Missed Opportunities: Could Home Health Aides Play a Greater Role?”


Can the home care job be re-imagined, creating more satisfying and expansive roles for workers, and improving the quality of supports for clients? Would these roles save the system money? And what’s preventing the field from adopting these roles? These are a few questions that WTVF (an NPR affiliate) examined in its in-depth article on home care aides and advanced roles. (Sep 25, 2018)

20 | “A Radical Solution to the Impossible Cost of Caring for the Elderly”


The heart-wrenching protagonists of this story from Mother Jones are a working-class family struggling to obtain paid support as they care for each other through dementia, cancer, and the frailty of old age. It argues that “universal home care”–an idea emerging at the state level–could make life much easier for this family, and in turn, the rest of us. But will it become reality? (Oct 2018)

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