Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button
Webonews button

Health aides are critical, and could use a lift

Alicia dreams of driving a school bus.

She trained for months and got her license to deliver kids from sidewalks to school and safely back again. No doubt, she’s got the skills. Her dream, however, is stuck in neutral while she waits for the call — not the current one that asks her to fill in for a sick driver, but the one that offers permanent employment.

Between Alicia’s dream and reality, she walks the halls and rooms of a rehabilitation/nursing home south of Youngstown most weekends, 12 hours each shift. She tenderly cares for her elderly and infirmed patients. She changes their diapers, feeds them, lifts them from bed to wheelchair to walker. And she does it all with compassion.

I’ve seen Alicia’s empathetic work firsthand. She comes to my parents’ home several hours a week to help my father care for my mom, who has dementia. Like many older adults, my father wants to keep my mother at home as long as possible. Alicia’s visits help him to do that.

After spending more than a decade as a health care aide, though, Alicia wants a change. Her back aches as the physical demands of the job take a toll. She’s tired of the politics and headaches of health care. So she is looking to make a change. She wants to be behind the wheel of that school bus full-time.

Talking to Alicia, I couldn’t help but wonder what a loss it is when compassionate caregivers like her leave the health care field, especially at a time when we will need them the most. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the number of Americans over age 65 will have nearly doubled in 30 years as the baby boomer generation ages. That means more people will need help performing basic functions — taking medication, bathing, preparing food, dressing and eating.

The majority of those who care for older adults are direct care workers like Alicia — the home health aides, personal care aides and nursing assistants. These professions are among the fastest-growing occupations in our country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimates that an additional 1.1 million of these workers will be needed by 2024. However, the labor pool of working women who usually fill these jobs cannot keep up with the graying population.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care providers have been dealing with the workforce shortage for several years now, knowing the situation is only going to get worse.

One of the problems could be that many are paid as if they’re sweeping floors instead of taking care of our precious loved ones. Many, ironically, lack their own health care benefits. Feeding a retirement fund is a stretch when feeding a family is an immediate need.

The median pay, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $10.87 an hour. That’s $22,600 before taxes. That’s barely above poverty level for a two-person household.

My siblings and I showed our thanks to Alicia when my father’s own medical issues prevented him from taking care of my mom. But a short-term cash infusion probably won’t be enough to keep her. Like many families, we’re tag-teaming to assure both get good care. After their lifetime of caring for us, it is the least we can do.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we are going to need all the Alicias we can get as all of our parents, and as we, continue to age.

Some rethinking of priorities may be in order. We can start with a raise.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind