Like so many regions across the country, Long Island is facing a significant shortage of home care workers. There are potentially numerous reasons for this, not the least of which involves stagnant wages. The home care industry has grappled with significantly low pay scales for years, and with the cost of living far outpacing inflation on Long Island, it has driven many of these workers away.
Some home care aides have to commute in from less expensive places to live, but others may have left the industry because of difficult working conditions and other factors. Whatever the cause, it’s leaving elderly and disabled men and women without the care they need in order to remain home.
One of the greatest struggles home care agencies on Long Island are facing is filling necessary hours on the weekends. They may be able to have enough caregivers for the workload during the week, but for clients who need around-the-clock care or support on the weekends, that’s when the struggles really shine through.
As noted by Newsday in its blog, Demand for home care workers on LI is outstripping supply, written by Carol Polsky:
“On Long Island, home health care agencies said they are sometimes unable to accept new cases or fully staff existing ones, especially on weekends and holidays, and in areas with poor access by public transportation such as Nassau’s North Shore and Suffolk’s East End. Higher minimum wages and better transportation in New York City cause some aides to prefer cases there over ones in nearby Nassau County, agency leaders said.
Over the decades, shortages — which affect not only the elderly but also the disabled, including children, and people with dementia and disabling illness, at home and in residential facilities — have eased in economic downturns when other jobs aren’t readily available, and tightened when, as now, unemployment is low. Beyond the cycles, however, is the aging of the baby-boom generation.”
Many people who would prefer to remain home are being forced into nursing homes, even the terminally ill. People who need help just to get around are left to struggle on their own, especially if a home care aide who was scheduled to work with them is unavailable at the last minute and a replacement is not found.
Raising the rates charged to clients may seem like the simple solution, but that doesn’t provide help for those dependent on Medicaid for reimbursements. If a solution is not found at the federal or state level, more seniors and disabled adults may be forced into nursing homes, which are far more expensive than home care and less desirable for most people.
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