Home health care has become an integral part of the overall health care industry. As the population in the United States ages, it is placing increased pressure on short and long-term health care providers. More people, if given the choice, would prefer to age in place — remaining home, even as they deal with some serious health issues — as opposed to nursing home care or other facility-based care.
These in-home care providers, including visiting nurses, are a vital component of being able to allow aging Americans this option. Yet, due to stagnantly low wages, difficult work conditions, and numerous other factors, it remains difficult for providers, including agencies, to attract and retain the best of the best.
Until recently, many of these in-home care workers did not enjoy the same protections as other workers in the country as far as minimum wage, sick time, and other benefits were concerned.
As noted by Fran Quigley, director of the Health and Human Right Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and editor of Faith in Healthcare newsletter, writing in a blog, Who Cares for Home Health Care Workers? published by Sojourners:
“Helping clients in and out of bed and navigating the tasks of getting dressed and cleaned up is often hard labor. Williams-Ward recently suffered a back injury on the job and had to stop taking clients who need lifting. But few employers in the field offer health insurance, and the low wages often mean workers are unable to afford the premiums and deductibles that sometimes accompany health care available under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 9 of every 10 home care workers don’t get sick days or paid time off. This means that those who provide hands-on care for others often go without care themselves.”
A key question involves who is taking care of these workers. While Mr. Quigley’s article was focused on various legal protections, it is important to understand that many of these caregivers may struggle with emotional, mental, or even physical health challenges.
It is essential for the industry as a whole to recognize some of the pressing needs home care providers may have in light of the challenges the work poses. By ignoring the physical and mental strain of this type of work, it will lead to a continued revolving door of employment.
As demand for these services increases and more hospitals, doctors, and other medical professionals recognize the value of in-home care support, something will have to give. Before this country reaches its tipping point in the home health care sector, it’s important for agencies and other providers to continue advocating for the proper care and assistance to those on the front lines helping elderly and disabled Americans in need at home.
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