Dire Shortage of Home-Health Aides: Coming Soon to All Fifty States

Wonder dogsSeniors and the disabled in need of home-based care say they are struggling to recruit and retain health aides, a shortage that is expected to become more acute as the population ages.

Home-health aides are the lowest-paid workers in the healthcare system earning less than $13 an hour, for work that often involves late-nights and weekends assisting home-bound seniors with bathing, meal preparation and other personal needs.

"There are just not enough bodies to fill the home-care staffing jobs," said one attorney with the Center for Elder Law and Justice, which provides legal services to seniors and income-eligible people in Niagara County and seven other western New York counties.

Advocates for New York’s home-care industry say the state is experiencing a strong demand for health-care aides. The shortage is expected to become more acute in the next 10 years. There are estimates that 20% of New Yorkers will be 65 years of age or older by 2025, and many will need to depend on public programs to pay for the services.

Home-care providers in New York say they’re being squeezed by what they call inadequate Medicaid rates, resulting in the need to close offices and eliminate services. The state offered short-term funding to fill the gap, but because of the continuing aide shortage, some agencies are unable to provide care that’s been authorized. As a result, patients face a high risk of being hospitalized or placed in nursing homes when they could be staying in their communities, if more aides were hired.

However, state Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson believes the rates offered by the state to the home-care agencies are adequate and that it will increase its support for the sector by $4.9 billion over the next five years. Helgerson contended that New York is more generous to the industry than any other state.

It’s thought that the Assembly will try to gain greater state support for the managed-care plans from which the agencies get their funding. Budget bills may earmark added money that would result in pay increases for the caregivers. This effort is designed to stop workers from leaving home-health agencies for fast-food restaurants and other employers who pay higher salaries.

I personally believe that technology may solve some of the issues we face in caring for seniors and the disabled.  As AI technology improves, we may well find robots become an indispensable part of  caring for the elderly making it practical for them to stay at home longer than currently possible.  Self driving cars may soon offer seniors and the disabled with a renew sense independence as this technology improves.  Nor should we overlook the role played by the canines in our lives as research proves that assistance animals can provide important health benefits to their owners. If you are in our area, please stop by to say hello to Zaremba Center's certified therapy dog, "Rumpole of the Bailey" or "Rummy" to his friends.  

Reference: The (Plattsburgh, NY) Press-Republican (March 4, 2017) “Home health aide shortage leaves some without care”


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