As more legislators become aware of the impact home health care has on elderly and disabled adults, they also discover that relatively and traditionally low wages are hampering agencies’ abilities to attract, hire, and retain valuable caregivers. Recently, legislation was put forward in Massachusetts to try and help secure vital caregivers for the aging population in the state.
According to the Worcestor, Massachusetts Telegram blog, Wage supports backed for home health care workers, written by Colin A. Young:
The demand for home health assistants is projected to grow by 46.7 percent between 2016 and 2026 while the demand for personal care aides is expected to rise by 37.4 percent, Mass. Home Care said, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the state’s workforce — currently there are about 45,000 home care agency workers in the state — will not be able to meet that demand unless changes are made now, the advocates said.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Reps. Carmine Gentile and Aaron Vega pitched their legislation (S 358/H 630) that would direct the state to implement a wage- and rate-setting process for home care workers who serve the elderly and people with disabilities. The bill would ensure that trained home care workers are paid at least $17.25 per hour by July 1, 2023 and then at a rate that is at least 15 percent higher than the state minimum wage.
Traditionally, according to Sen. Jehlen, these jobs have often been viewed as ‘women’s work,’ as she noted. Caregiving is often dominated by female workers, but growing numbers of men are also discovering the rewards in providing support to aging and disabled individuals.
Currently, the average wages in Massachusetts hover between $13 an hour and $15 per hour for in home care. With the backbreaking work, long, difficult hours, and emotional challenge some of these jobs pose, it leads to burnout. That means agencies and individuals are constantly seeking new caregivers and struggling to have enough people to support their clients.
This legislation is aimed at increasing the minimum wages paid to in-home care providers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 has been supporting these measures to increase wages and benefits for these care providers. It’s unclear what, if any, direct impact increasing wages over the next three and half years by an average of less than two dollars per hour will have on retaining key caregivers, but recognizing these deficiencies and limitations, especially as it pertains to Medicaid reimbursement rates, may be the first step in helping agencies offer better wages to their crucial home care providers.
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