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BIGGER PICTURE: Low wages lead to home health aide void

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New York state has a large population that is growing old. Along with that, the trend has been for people to opt for “aging in place” — in other words, not in a nursing home, but rather in the comfort of their own residence. To do that, however, requires people willing and able to be home health aides.

Demand is expected to grow for those positions, yet the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State is forecasting a shortage of more than 83,000 home health workers in the next three years in New York alone. It is extremely difficult to find this sort of help, forcing many disabled and older folks into nursing homes or remaining too long in hospitals.

The key reason for the shortage is simple: low wages. Says the CDPAA: “To get good people, we’ve got to pay them better.”

Many readers may not put too much thought into this situation now, but it could become a dire personal issue in the future.

An advocacy group called NY Caring Majority, and many others, are pushing for passage of the Fair Pay for Home Care Act, which would pay home healthcare workers 150% of their region’s prevailing minimum wage. For example, a worker in the Finger Lakes making $22,000 a year — funded by Medicaid — would get a raise to $35,000. Health benefits would be provided too.

The home health aide shortage creates a ripple effect. It can result in friends and family serving as unpaid caregivers for loved ones. That may require 30 hours of care each week, often with a lack of training.

State guidelines and federal regulations mandate that home health aides who work 24 hours at a client’s home get eight hours for sleep and three hours for meals; that time is unpaid. The reality, though, is that patients actually need constant attention, leaving the aides little time to sleep or take breaks — resulting in........

© Finger Lakes Times

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