It’s been a favorite talking point of political pundits for a number of years: low wages within the home care industry. PBS’ Paul Solman recently conducted an interview with numerous individuals who are involved in the home care sector regarding the potential crisis about to impact elderly and disabled individuals who rely on these workers for daily care and health.
In this interview, Mr. Solman mentioned the number of baby boomers (men and women born shortly after the end of World War II and the mid-1960s) retiring and how that will directly affect demand for in-home care services. He also discussed the historically low wages and alleged lack of respect these in home care providers have received.
An excerpt from PBS’ News Hour report, Why does one of the most needed jobs pay so poorly?, conducted by Paul Solman noted:
“Michigan, like the rest of the country, is facing a critical shortage of home care workers to assist older adults and people with disabilities who live at home with daily tasks like eating, cleaning, bathing …
… With about 10,000 baby boomers retiring every single day, home care is one of the fastest growing occupations in America. With some 50 percent more workers needed by 2026, these are among the most-needed jobs of the future. Problem is, in the present, the median pay is just $10.49 an hour.”
According to one of his interviewees, one-quarter of all in home care providers live in a household mired in poverty. Another interviewee noted that the majority of these workers were women and (again, historically speaking according to her estimation) have been underpaid for the work they’ve done. The guest went on to add that the U.S. is an ageist society that doesn’t place proper value on caring for the elderly, so there hasn’t been a major push to find more funding for these workers who care for this age group.
Nothing was mentioned about the dissolvement of the ‘nuclear family’, which, throughout much of history has involved multiple generations either living together or within close proximity to one another that lead to family being a primary support system for its aging loved ones.
Today, in-home care is a crucial component for quality of life and support for many aging Americans and while families are spreading out across the country, the traditional supports are no longer in place. This is just one simple reason why home care is becoming a more integral aspect of quality of life for aging Americans and as the baby boomers retire and demand for in-home care services increases, it’s expected that a shortage will occur.
Increasing wages and benefits would certainly help to reduce this crisis, but few advocating for such improvements seem to offer workable solutions, only continued criticism for political theater.