Life as a Home Care Worker: Beat the Odds
The home care workforce is one of the nation’s fastest growing yet also the worst paid.
Turnover is high, and with a potential labor shortage looming as the baby boomers age, there are efforts to attract more people to the job.
If you’re considering becoming a home health aide (HHA) yourself, read on for some helpful tips from someone who has been doing it for years!
Home care workers provide assistance with everyday tasks such as bathing, cooking and grooming. They might help someone prepare for a doctor’s appointment or take them to the grocery store.
Training and Advancement
Home health aides are the unsung heroes of modern-day society. In a world where people seem to be obsessed with work, it’s rare that we stop and think about what goes on at home when there is no one else around.
Home health aides provide invaluable support for seniors in their homes during times that they may need assistance or help most – between 9am-4pm while you’re working! These hardworking individuals ensure our loved ones stay safe and healthy within their own four walls all hours of the day.
For many home health aides, there’s no such thing as advancement.
Unemployment is rampant and the median wage for a home care worker hovers around $12 an hour—difficult enough to call this a career without working another job or a way to make more money.
Advocates say one big problem for low home health aide pay is a decades-old law that exempts home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime, likening them to babysitters. Even though they often work more than 40 hours in a week’s time with no paid breaks or vacation days, these underpaid women are still expected to provide the same level of service as their well-compensated male counterparts.
I’ve seen so many nurses and healthcare aides get taken advantage of, which is why they need to be paid more!
There’s no way that these facilities could function without them at such paltry wages. They should make at least $15 an hour as starting pay or even higher if possible-these people are worth every penny.
Low Wages for HHA’s May Hurt the Home Health Care
In order to keep the aging population at home, Medicaid is a necessary payer for those providing care. It’s more cost-effective and preferred than institutional settings by 90% of individuals surveyed.
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that home health aides are among the lowest paid in America, earning an average wage of $10.66 per hour and nearly doubling their wages with tips from clients (which averages out to about 15% for seniors).
But a low salary isn’t just bad news: it increases turnover rates, resulting in more money spent on recruitment when salaries don’t match those offered elsewhere.
The low wages many HHA’s receive is a threat to this trend of incentivizing in home care instead of institutionalized settings like hospitals or long-term facilities.
The lack of adequate pay makes it hard to retain quality employees who are needed at all levels–from aides with basic skills cleaning homes and providing companionship up through clinical professionals with advanced degrees managing complex cases.
As senior needs grow increasingly sophisticated – from medication management to wound dressing — they also become more expensive.
One reason for the health aide wage problem is that some states haven’t increased their rates in decades. Florida, for example, hasn’t hiked its rates since 1980 while Ohio has been steadily increasing theirs every few years but not enough to keep up with how much it costs to provide services and wages have fallen well below the cost of living at a time when other industries are seeing steady growth.
In Florida, home health aides are among the least-paid in any position statewide. Their hourly rate of $11.40 is less than half what it costs to provide a home care service ($24 per hour). In Ohio, rates have been increasing steadily with each new contract but they still lag behind other states by about 20 percent or more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 15 million Americans will be over age 65 by 2030; and this means there’s going to be lots of need for quality home care.
Competition for HHA’s
The U.S.’s in-demand third most occupation is the home health aide, projected to face a shortage of nearly 450,000 workers by 2024 as the country’s population grays with more demand for their services.
However, this industry will be difficult to maintain because companies can’t compete with Amazon and Walmart who offer higher wages among other benefits that make it an easier job than being at home all day helping others get better from chronic illnesses or injuries.
Even certified home health aides, who have completed extensive training and passing the HHA competency exam may not rise to the top of the pay scale for home care workers.
It will take some time before things change because many states have minimum wage laws that they must abide by until 2023, but there continue to be efforts from organizations which advocates for better wages and working conditions so people don’t leave their positions out of frustration or exhaustion.
What Can Be Done?
Given that approximately three-quarters of home and community-based services are government funded, state governments must begin to regularly review Medicaid rates and ensure that wages for home health aides can stay in step with other occupations.
I would then recommend that home care agencies offer benefits, like health insurance and paid time off, which will make the job more appealing.
Smaller companies may also be in a better position to provide these benefits because they do not have as many costs that larger organizations incur. In addition, there are programs that help with training for people who don’t know how to become a home care worker or just want additional instruction on what it takes to work one day at a time or full-time.
These can really improve someone’s chances of getting hired based on experience rather than credentials.