Home care workforce set to explode by 2022

Home-based direct care workers may outnumber their facility-based counterparts by nearly two to one within the next 8 years, according to a new analysis by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI). The organization projects home health sector growth of 50 percent by 2022, nearly five times the growth rate of all occupations nationwide.

New emphases on alternate senior living models and greater demands from older adults who want to remain at home have prompted the surge in the home health sector, which includes personal care aides, home health aides and private-pay home care aides, the report notes.

"The demand for in-home services and supports is growing dramatically as baby boomers age and more people living with chronic health problems and disabilities prefer to receive care at home," said Abby Marquand, PHI associate director of policy research, who conducted the analysis. "To meet our nation’s increasing need for an adequate and stable home care workforce, we must invest in improving the quality of home care jobs."

The changes in the direct-care industry and the surging demand for home-based caregivers also will impact facility-based skilled nursing organizations—who may find themselves having to compete for direct-care workers in the future.

Any sort of market competition for quality direct-care personnel could have a positive impact on what has traditionally been a dismally poor-paying job sector. Home care services workers also are among the nation’s poorest paid, with average annual income of $17,000, the organization notes. However, recent changes to the “companionship” exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act will take effect in 2015, bringing basic labor and minimum wage protections to the majority of home care workers for the first time in 40 years.

The $61 billion home care services industry is funded primarily by Medicare and Medicaid, although nearly a quarter of its annual cost is paid for by private insurance or consumers.

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