If there is a shortage of home health aides in Vista and other areas of Southern California, how will such a shortage impact nursing home neglect in the state? According to a recent article in The Washington Post, there is a rising shortage of home health aides in California and across the country. Such a shortage could result in more instances of elder neglect within the homes of seniors, and at the same time, it could result in more elderly patients moving into nursing homes that are already understaffed. As such, the shortage in home health aides could also lead to more instances of nursing home neglect in facilities throughout the country.
Why is there such a significant shortage of home health aides? What can families do to help prevent instances of elder neglect?
Low Wages and Lack of Incentive
One of the major causes for the “emerging crisis” of a shortage in the number of home healthcare workers is low wages. As the article articulates, home health aides earn, on average, about $10 per hour, and this funding comes primarily from state Medicaid programs. This is not a lot of money to “perform this physically and emotionally demanding work.”
To be clear, home health aides earn approximately $10 per hour to complete services such as “helping people get into and out of bed, go to the bathroom, shower, [and] eat and participate in routine activities.” Home health aides handle these services while also dealing with patients that exhibit “challenging behaviors,” sometimes as a result of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
But low wages is not the only problem that is driving the shortage of home health aides. While wages remain low for persons performing the often difficult tasks associated with being a home healthcare worker, the demand for such services is also growing. Indeed, as the article highlights, the senior population in America is expanding at a very high rate and will reach a number of about 88 million people by the year 2050. To put that number in perspective, it represents an increase of about 48 million seniors from current numbers.
Increasing Demand for Home Health Aides and Senior Healthcare Workers
We know that the elderly population is expanding rapidly, and experts have been trying to emphasize the need to expand the number of employees in the “direct care” workforce, which includes home health aides, personal care aides, and nursing assistants. If we do not take steps to expand this specialized workforce, then “demand for services [will] outstrip the capacity,” according to the article.
How many home health aides would we need to adequately supply the growing demand? According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), by the year 2024 there will be a need for 1.1 million workers in this field. As noted, however, given the stagnancy of wages, it is difficult to recruit workers for these positions. In the coming years, it will be extremely important to find ways to attract new workers for home healthcare positions to prevent instances of elder neglect at homes and in nursing facilities.
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(image courtesy of Lukas Bidimaier)