From low wages to a lack of career advancement opportunities, there are a number of issues plaguing the healthcare workforce.
Under the current presidential administration, however, it is possible to re-examine the state of the caregiver workforce and implement several changes that could improve the profession, thereby ensuring care for the elderly.
PHI, a New York-based direct care workers’ rights organization, has proposed nearly 50 federal policy recommendations as part of a new report published Wednesday. The recommendations are directed to the White House, Congress and various government agencies.
“Our country is at a critical juncture regarding this workforce,” Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy at PHI, told Home Health Care News. “The pandemic has reinforced the enormous worth of these workers, the challenges they continue to face and how these issues endanger the lives of workers and the people they support.”
Overall, there are approximately 4.6 million direct care workers in the United States. Usually this includes orderlies, home health aides and nursing assistants.
More and more seniors rely on caregivers to stay independent at home. When you consider the aging population, about 70% of people have serious long-term service and support needs, according to the Global Coalition on Aging.
Despite the increased need for caregivers, almost half of workers live in or near poverty.
In fact, the median salary for caregivers is comparatively lower than the median salary for other jobs with similar entry requirements, such as janitors, retail salespeople and customer service representatives, according to PHI.
This helps keep people off the field, making it difficult for home care providers to recruit and retain caregivers.
“We hope that a new presidential administration which has already presented an ambitious plan to increase the wages of home care workers will continue to advance measures that address the many problems facing this workforce,” said Espinoza.
As part of its report, PHI calls on Congress to enact and fund legislation that would establish a federal social insurance program in long-term care and fund states to improve their home and community service infrastructure ( HCBS).
Other long-term care funding efforts include: supporting alternative funding models, reforming Medicaid, and creating an “HCBS Workforce Plan” that defines the costs of supporting workers in the long term. Home Care.
The report also recommends measures that would implement a national strategy to improve the salaries and benefits of carers, promote financial support programs and finance the creation of state or regional public authorities to improve the quality of employment. .
In terms of a national compensation strategy, PHI suggests that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Administration for Community Living, the US Health Resources and Services Administration, and the US Department of Labor should collaborate on a plan that meets the workforce concerns. . This includes developing specific recommendations on state Medicaid rates to ensure competitive salaries and benefits.
PHI also suggests establishing a national competency-based training standard. In addition, CMS should create minimum federal training standards for nursing assistants, the advocacy organization believes.
“One recommendation that emerges from the report is that various federal agencies work with stakeholders on the ground to establish a national standard for direct care skills that applies to all members of this workforce, which would improve the quality and consistency of training in these workers, ”Espinoza told HHCN.
Additionally, PHI highlighted various recommendations regarding career advancement opportunities for caregivers, data collection and monitoring for this employment sector, as well as leadership opportunities for caregivers.
Looking ahead, there will be dire consequences if the United States is unable to move forward on some of the PHI recommendations, Espinoza warned.
“If the federal government does not immediately prioritize this workforce, the direct care crisis will explode – millions of workers will continue to suffer financially, employers will not be able to fill the 7.4 million jobs. jobs in direct care that our research estimates will occur between 2019 and 2029, and older people and people with disabilities will not receive the care they deserve, ”he said.