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Analysis: Job quality endangers long-term care industry

The poor quality of direct-care workers’ jobs endangers the country’s caregiving infrastructure, according to  PHI, a national nonprofit organization advocating for the direct-care workforce in home and residential settings.

PHI’s analysis of the March Supplement of the Current Population Survey, a nationally representative sample issued by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, determined that the nation’s fastest-growing workforce faces challenges that undermine the long-term care industry’s ability to care for the elderly and disabled.

According to the analysis:

  • Direct-care workers are so underpaid that many live in poverty.
  • Hourly wages for home health aides and personal care assistants are under $8.
  • 45 percent of direct-care workers live in households earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty income level and 46 percent depend on public assistance such a food stamps, Medicaid and child care, housing or energy assistance.
  • In 2009, an estimated 900,000 direct-care workers didn’t have healthcare coverage and only 47 percent of direct-care workers had employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

“The problematic quality of direct-care jobs continues to undermine America’s capacity to produce a caregiving workforce that can deliver the basic hands-on services and supports demanded by millions of elders and persons with disabilities needing assistance with basic daily activities and tasks,” said Dorie Seavey, PhD, PHI’s director of policy research, in a statement.

Direct-care workers provide 70 percent to 80 percent of paid, hands-on, long-term care and personal assistance for elders and people living with disabilities, said PHI. There were more than 3.2 million direct-care workers – nursing assistants, home health aides and personal assistance aides – in 2008. More than 4.3 million are projected by 2018.

[See related story: Healthcare share of employment reaches all-time high]

“The historic proportions of this workforce are truly astounding,” Seavey said. “With demand for over a million new positions expected in the next few years, policymakers and providers have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of these jobs. The fabric of our country’s caregiving infrastructure depends on it.”

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