There continues to this day a fierce debate not only in Washington, DC but the rest of the country regarding immigration. This article is not going to espouse the benefits or potential risks of legal or illegal immigration, but rather focus on the impact the immigrant workforce has on in-home health care support services.
More Americans are turning to in-home care as a viable long-term option when they need support at home. The bulk of these services is provided through aides, or men and women who assist with basic tasks of everyday life. This may include toileting, bathing, getting dressed, and preparing meals.
As the demand for in-home care support services increases across the country, more of these workers are immigrants, people who have come to the United States for any number of reasons, including working opportunities. In fact, immigrants now account for almost one in four care workers.
In an opinion piece published by The Washington Post, The Health 202: Health-care worker shortages would be even worse without immigrants, written by Paige Winfield Cunningham:
“Immigrants — both citizens and noncitizens — make up a disproportionate share of workers who care for the elderly and disabled and ensure their surroundings are safe, according to a study published this week in the health policy journal Health Affairs.
The study finds more than one-fourth of direct care workers and 30.3 percent of nursing home housekeeping and maintenance workers are immigrants, underscoring their key role as the U.S. population ages. They make up 18.2 percent of the total health-care workforce at more than 3 million people.
“This is a workforce responsible for everything from making sure the floors are clean and making sure our elderly and disabled don’t fall to washing linens and other things critical to wellness,” Leah Zallman, the study’s author and a physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, told me.”
Much of the work many immigrants do involve manual labor, including those basic care services. They may also assist with light housekeeping and other duties, and while it may seem as though they are not nearly as critical to in-home care as visiting nurses, they are often some of the most vital pieces of the home care puzzle.
That’s because seniors and disabled adults without physical support and assistance will struggle to do even the most basic tasks each and every day. This will place them at an increased risk of various safety issues. With more seniors retiring, facing chronic health issues and other risks, in-home care becomes even more important and so, too, the immigrants who fill these positions.