Crisis in Home Health Care Will Soon Affect You

Stacy Hodge is a single mom with three kids. As a home care worker, she makes $10.75 an hour, plus a little extra for gas and travel time. To get by on that, Stacy says she has to budget carefully. She’s been in the job for three years, which is a long time in this sector. National figures show that more than half of her colleagues in any given year would have quit by now, heading to jobs in fast food and retail, where they can earn more. But Hodge says, “I like what I do. I would rather make a little less and enjoy what I do.”

Stacy Hodge visits a client at his home

People like Hodge are essential if America is going to deal with a growing crisis in the sector: four million people are turning 65 every year, and there aren’t enough professionals to take care of them as they age.

Those who are willing to do this work tend to be women. It’s “disproportionately women of color and immigrant women who do this work,” Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance tells us. “And it has a long history of being undervalued, under-recognized and even excluded from some of the most basic, basic protections,” she says.

Domestic workers were excluded from core labor protections set in the 1930s, and were only granted federal minimum wage and overtime protections in 2013. Home care workers still have to deal with no paid sick leave, low wages, and sexual harassment, among other challenges. The turnover rate in is hovering at around 67 percent annually.

“The people who are caring for the people who are the most vulnerable people in our country, are being treated in a really awful way,” says David Hammer, Executive Director of the ICA Group, a consulting firm that works with home care companies.

In the Bronx, Estella Robles helps her client do his laundry

In this podcast, we travel from rural Wisconsin to the Bronx to spend time with family caregivers and home care workers like Hodge. We learn about the economic and political factors that have created this crisis, and we explore what it will mean if there aren’t enough people to do this work. “I fear we’ll see death by neglect,” Debra Schultz, finance coordinator of Cooperative Care in Wisconsin tells us. “There’s just not going to be the workforce to help these baby boomers, to help them survive in their home,” she says. “It’s very scary, very scary.”

Additional Resources:

PHI: US Home Care Workers Key Facts

Mother Jones: A Radical Solution to the Impossible Cost of Caring for the Elderly

Boston Globe: The US has a huge need for home health care, and many from Ghana do the hard work

CityLab: Can America’s Aging Stay in Their Homes?

Featured Image: Cooperative Care worker Stacy Hodge with a client. (credit: Amy Costello)

9 Comments

  1. Gina

    Thank you Stacey for taking care of my grandpa. I myself have been cna/caregiver for 18 years and I love what I do. Are jobs are one of the toughest jobs out there. Your a good women for what you do. Always puts a smile on my face when we have good people like you. Thank you for all love,care and support to my grandpa and grandma.

  2. Denise Shepherd

    Stacy Hodge you are what the medical field does need! You are taking care of my Uncle who swears a lot lol. I am in the medical field and I agree better help at home is keeps people safer and healthier. Insurance does nothing anymore and pushes people out of hospitals and sub acute care to soon without people like you to help. Sadly they cant afford it most of the time.
    Thank you again for helping my Uncle and Aunt so they can stay home and be together.

  3. Ruth Vodicka

    Dear Stacy, I want to thank you for taking care of my Brother Richard! He tells me how caring & attentive you are to him. He really appreciates you! I live in Illinois but I wish I lived near him & Lena so I could help them. There are not many like you around, you are a treasure!!!

  4. Dawn Wilde

    Thank you so much Stacy for taking care of my father. I would be lost with out your help. I’m 1 of 2 of us that are PMA for my dad, the other one lives in Colorado. I would love to be there all of the time but unfortunately I can’t afford to take off work all the time. Don’t get me wrong I have FMLA at work, but the money loss is to much. Watching my father fade away from cancer, knowing that there is someone there a few times a week to help them in everyday tasks is a god send to me.
    Again thanks to Stacy I have some peace of mind that there is someone there for them.
    Dawn Wilde

    • Amy

      How touching to hear directly from you, Dawn. Stacy indeed is one-of-a-kind and I was so impressed with the warmth and care she showed your dad and so many others I saw her visit that day. I am so sorry you are unable to take more time off work to be with your father and indeed the financial strain is immense for so many people with sick and disabled family members. I am wishing you and your entire family all of the best during this difficult time and hope for better policies that would help families like yours and also provide better support and pay to caregivers like Stacy.

      Warmly,

      Amy

  5. Barbara Dickson

    Super job Stacy!!! 🙂
    I am a CNA and love my job. 🙂
    However, I am off of work do to health reasons and can hardly wait to get back do the in home cares.
    I have been with Cooperative Care for 17 yrs.
    They have stood by me all that time. 🙂

    • Amy

      It’s great to hear that you are treated so well by Cooperative Care, Barbara. I think the worker co-op is a promising model. I am sorry you have had to take time off work due to health reasons and I hope you are on the mend very soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and for the important work you do for families in Wisconsin.

  6. MARY TIERMAN

    I to care giver. I care for my Sister. I get paid $10.50hr. I get paid for 40 hrs a week and my week is Sunday though Ssaturday. But I actually work 24/7 he. I have no relief. So there no time off for me. I am at that stage of having to find a care center for her because I am getting physical and emotional drain. I believe if the stop getting so many CEO to run these corporation maybe they could give more money to the ones that need it and deserve it. The real worker.

    • Amy

      Oh, Mary. This sounds like an incredibly difficult and stressful situation. I know that many caregivers, especially those caring for family members, are only compensated for limited hours even though they provide care 24/7. i hope you are soon able to get the support you both clearly need and deserve. Your sister is so fortunate to have you in her life and I am wishing you both continued strength and health.

      Amy

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