WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 5 — Modern medicine is helping America’s elders live longer, healthier lives. But a segment of that population, those requiring special care at home and in specialized facilities built for the task, has been particularly hard hit by the COVID pandemic. They face a massive shortage of caregivers as home healthcare agencies, nursing homes, hospices, and residential care communities find it harder and harder to attract workers, says Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
The Mercer healthcare industry consultancy, in its 2021 healthcare labor market report, says that more than 9.7 million workers are employed at those agencies and that over the next five years, the industry will need 10.7 million. However, the expectation is that 6.5 million aides will permanently leave their jobs in that same period of time, and the industry will attract only 1.9 million replacements.
AMAC’s Weber says, if that isn’t scary enough, the research firm, Morning Consult, conducted a poll among healthcare workers and found that:
- 18% of health care workers have quit their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, while another 12% have been laid off.
- Among health care workers who have kept their jobs during the pandemic, 31% have considered leaving.
- 79% of health care professionals said the national worker shortage has affected them and their place of work.
According to Morning Consult, 50% of those who participated in the survey said they quit their jobs to find employment that paid better and 50% said they left because they found jobs with better opportunities, and 44% said they wanted to pursue opportunities for career growth.
Gayle Kvenvold is president and CEO of LeadingAge, the largest association of aging services organizations in Minnesota. She says that “The average wage for a direct care worker right now in Minnesota is between $16 and $17 an hour. And we know that we’re going to need to be able to do better than that to compete in our rapidly evolving workforce.” But she points out that the “ability to increase wages is tied directly to state funding allocations. As wage pressure mounts, providers cannot simply raise their rates to increase the wages to attract new workers.”
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living [AHCA/NCAL] represents more than 14,000 nursing homes, assisted living communities, and other long-term care facilities. A survey they conducted shows that things have gotten so bad for the long-term care industry that only 25% of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are confident they will still be in business next year. Mark Parkinson, AHCA/NCAL President, and CEO cites a survey showing that a “majority of facilities are losing revenue due to fewer post-acute patients coming from the hospital and fewer residents seeking long term care. Providers are also still incurring COVID costs, despite the availability of vaccines, as infection prevention measures continue. The top three costs facilities incurred due to COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they’ve had cases or not, are additional pay for staff, hiring additional staff, and personal protective equipment.”