More Caregivers Needed

Experts estimate that there will be a shortage of 151,000 caregivers by 2030. Our aging population and a desire by many to remain in their homes have created a growing need for caregivers. The problem is that these jobs have traditionally paid lower wages making it difficult for workers to make ends meet.

In an article on titled The most important job in the world is one no one wants anymore, author Sarita Gupta examines the growing need for caregivers and some ways to make the job more appealing to future workers. One reason given for the shortage of caregivers was the shift from one working parent to two that has occurred in our country since the 1960s. Gupta points out that prior to this shift it was the unpaid labor of women that provided care for the elderly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 both parents worked in 61% of American families. Working parents no longer have the time to care for aging family members.

1.208,800 new Home Health Care Jobs by 2026Jobs related to home health care and senior care will be plentiful in the future, but as Gupta points out, these jobs need to pay more to attract more workers.

Improve the Job and the Pay

In his 2017 book, Who Will Care for Us: Long-term Care and the Long-Term Workforce, Paul Osterman, advocates for increasing responsibilities for home caregivers by training them to help with wound care, diet and exercise, physical therapy, and more tasks normally performed by other caregivers. This would require more training, but could elevate the pay and value of this job.

Both authors discussed above noted that wages are often determined by Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, which essentially caps earnings. Previous blog posts have examined the low wages paid to CNA’s and other caregivers. Read more about the work of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s).

Quick Facts

# of CNA’s in 2016 – 1,564,300

2017 Median Pay – $27,510 a year/$13.23 an hour.

New CNA Jobs by 2026 – 177,700

Jobs in health care are expected to increase each year. High school students would be wise to examine the opportunities when looking at colleges and vocational school programs. Older adults looking to change careers should also consider health care jobs.

Health Inequality

The high cost of health care has resulted in what has been called “Health Inequality”. People with more wealth can afford better care and, combined with other factors, live longer than those further down the economic ladder. One study cited in an article on The Guardian website found that Americans with greater wealth can live up to 15 years longer than average. People with jobs that provide health insurance also tend to have better health and longer lives.

High Deductible Plans

A dramatic increase in high deductible health plans is making the problem worse. People are forced to postpone healthcare as they rack up debt from high deductibles. An article in the Los Angeles Times examines the pressures faced by middle-class families stuck with high deductible plans. The author, Noam Levey, points out that wealthy families can handle the increased deductibles and poor families have access to the low cost or free care through Medicare, but those in the middle are struggling to pay for health care. Interestingly, more often than not it is the wealthy benefitting from programs such as Health Savings Accounts that allow people to save money for medical expenses in tax-free accounts. HSA’s were supposed to help all people save for medical care, but it turns out that the people using them the most are in higher income brackets.

Wealth equals health graphic

Postponing Healthcare Leads to Higher Costs

When people are forced to postpone health care or go without medication because they cannot afford it, the cost of health care goes up. Preventative and early treatments reduce complications and costs. 

As discussed in a previous blog post, the solutions to these problems are not simple. The interconnectedness of healthcare-related industries including insurers, drug makers, pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, medical device makers, medical supplies, government programs, and more make it difficult to implement solutions.

If companies continue to pass on the rising costs of health insurance to employees by increasing their share of the premium and switching to high deductible plans, even those with insurance will find it more and more difficult to afford needed care.

Hourly Workers Need Consistent Schedules

This morning I stopped at Mcdonalds for some coffee and picked up a job flyer. The first item on the list of benefits was the ability to choose your hours. This surprised me as I had recently read about the fast food industries use of computer algorithms to determine workers schedules based on past sales data. People in low wage jobs in retail and fast food are most likely to experience the challenges created by unpredictable work hours.

A report by the Economic Policy Institute has this to say about the effects of unpredictable schedules:

Volatile hours not only mean volatile incomes, but add to the strain working families face as they try to plan ahead for child care or juggle schedules in order to take classes, hold down a second job, or pursue other career opportunities.

Fast Food Worker DemographicsIn recent years a number of state and local governments have enacted “fair workweek” laws to provide some relief to employees whose schedules fluctuate weekly. Can you imagine trying to budget your money when you never know how many hours you will work each week?

For a personal story about working in the fast-food industry, check out  I was a fast-food worker. Let me tell you about burnout.

Working together we can make the world a better place, but first, we must put ourselves in the shoes of those people working full-time who are struggling to provide the basics for their families.

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