Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

In the year 2000, the Family Caregiver Alliance reported that approximately 13 million Americans required some type of long-term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or at home.  According to current estimates,  by the year 2050,  this figure is expected to double to approximately 27 million.  This means that in roughly 36 years, 14 million older Americans will require paid long-term care services, either in a nursing home, assisted living facility or at home with the services of a home health care aide. 

As our population ages and life expectancy increases,  older individuals often need assistance with routine tasks of daily living (e.g. bathing, dressing, meal preparation, banking, shopping,  etc.)  Statistics show that by age 65, older individuals have a 68% chance of being physically or cognitively impaired in at least two tasks of daily living, and will require at home care services or assistance of some kind. 

Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly: Why Sound the Alarm?

We’ve known for many years that the elderly population in the United States is growing.  What many don’t realize,  however,  is that we’re also facing an imminent Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly.  According to employment projections released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for personal care aides, home health aides, and nursing assistant jobs is expected to grow exponentially over the next ten years.  These workers are trained to provide at home care services to the elderly in nursing homes, group homes and assisted livings communities, such as personal grooming, using the bathroom, eating, etc.  By 2020,  the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute estimates that there will be over 5 million paid caregivers in the US alone- making it the largest occupation,  surpassing employment in retail sales and food services.

But even in the current labor market, there often aren’t enough applicants to fill these relatively low-paying,  highly demanding positions.  There is a serious Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly,  and the problem isn’t showing signs of abating any time soon. Caregiving positions have high rates of turnover and low employee retention rates.  Caregivers are frequently subject to stressful working conditions,  low pay,  physically taxing work and typically don’t receive benefits.

In most cases,  when there is a large enough demand for labor,  wages increase.  Most economists and eldercare experts suggest this won’t be the case with direct caregivers,  because Medicaid and Medicare pay their salaries.  In the current economic climate,  both programs are under enormous cost-cutting pressures,  which make it highly unlikely caregiver’s wages will increase anytime soon.  Additionally,  when Medicaid and Medicare stop paying for caregiver services (e.g. when days are maxed out in a hospital stay),  the vast majority of low income and middle-class families simply can’t afford to pay for caregivers out of pocket.  Although the care these caregivers provide is invaluable, their services aren’t affordable for most families,  even at the already low wages they receive.

Consequences of Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

When families can’t afford to hire a trained caregiver, they are often forced to provide care themselves.  This puts a strain on family members who have to juggle work duties, personal lives along with caring for an elderly family member.  Caregiver burnout is a real problem facing family members who choose to step up and care for an elderly family member.  Because most people don’t have any training or experience in caring for the elderly,  they may grow frustrated with the physical and emotional demands of caring for an older adult. This can be an extremely dangerous situation for the elderly,  who don’t always have ways to communicate if they are being abused or neglected by their overworked or frustrated caregivers.

Currently,  agencies charge $18 dollars an hour for personal care aides and $19 dollars an hour for home health aides.  The aides themselves take home about half that amount.  Many home health care aides and eldercare experts who see an imminent care crisis looming hope the government will set standards for fair wages for personal care aides,  especially when it comes to benefits, overtime pay and training.  In order to fill the positions we currently have and the ones we’ll have in the near future,  we need to make caregiving jobs accessible and attractive to people seeking employment.  These much-needed changes will help ameliorate a serious situation and prevent the Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly from reaching a crisis point.

Personal Injury, Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

Elder abuse is a frightening consequence of poorly trained health care aides or family members that have taken on a role caring for an older family member which they are unable to handle.  If you have been a victim of elder abuse,  or know someone who has been a victim of elder abuse at the hands of a medical professional, health care aide,  or in a nursing home,  contact the personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  Your elderly loved one deserves to live their lives in peace,  safety and dignity.  Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys will assess your nursing home or elder care abuse case with sensitivity and can handle insurance companies,  nursing homes and administrators who may deny abuse occurred.  If you have been injured as a result of elder abuse, or nursing home abuse or neglect,  contact our personal injury team.  We will assess your nursing home abuse case,  and help you get the fair and just compensation you deserve for your injuries.

A Shortage of Caregivers – New York Times

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