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White House Aging Conference Forum Highlights Workforce Issues

April 14, 2015

Older adults, aging service professionals, and policymakers gathered in Seattle on April 2, for the third in a series of five regional forums leading up to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) in Washington, D.C. this summer.

Forum panelists addressed the WHCOA priority issues — healthy aging, retirement security, long-term services and supports, and elder justice.

The Seattle forum also included a special focus on the workforce needed to support older adults in continuing to live at home and engage in their communities when they need assistance with daily activities.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez spoke about the need to strengthen the home care workforce to enable individuals like his mother who want to “age in place.” Perez highlighted the “impending shortage of home health aides” and opined that a contributing factor is that “we don’t pay them enough!” 

He expressed his confidence that the DOL will prevail in litigation that challenges its regulation to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, and described it as a key component to giving “full force and meaning” to the U.S. Supreme Court‘s Olmstead decision, which affirms the rights of people with disabilities to receive services in the most integrated appropriate setting.

Assistant Secretary Bill Moss of Washington’s Aging and Long-Term Support Administration spoke of the dramatic advancements the state has made over the last 20 years in providing more services to individuals in their homes, rather than in institutions, and the important role of home care worker training in the delivery of services to individuals with more and more complex health care needs at home.

Charissa Raynor, executive director at the SEIU Healthcare Northwest Training Partnership, shared information about the Partnership’s work to annually train 45,000 workers in 13 languages, based on Washington’s home care training standard.

— by Gail MacInnes, PHI Government Affairs Manager

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