On the Job, 24 Hours a Day, 27 Days a Month
A day in the life of a home health aide.
Adapted from an article by Andy Newman
Newman’s article succinctly calls attention to one of America’s most pressing questions. Who will care for America’s chronically ill ageing population? Through his interview with Marjorie, a home health aide, Andy Newman illustrates the many challenges home care workers face. Although not necessarily providing any answers, it does provide touching insight into why there is such a shortage of personal care workers in America today.
A day in the life of a home health aide. Marjorie’s story illustrates how demanding and rewarding the career of a home health aide can be. As a live-in care professional her day begins when her client Bob wakes and finishes only after she puts him to bed. Working round the clock providing immensely compassionate care. She undertakes the herculean range of duties required of home care workers. Cook, clean, bathe, dress, entertain, from the moment Marjorie rouses Bob in the morning she will be the most important person in his world.
As can be seen from Marjorie’s story, carers are undoubtedly an important pillar of our society. Dedicated live-in home carers have allowed for the increasing trend of ageing at home. And the one-on-one attention provided by home care workers can be better value than dedicated care homes, Marjorie’s salary is less than half what it would cost to home Bob in a care facility.
The importance of this role is only set to increase. Driven by many factors. An aging population with chronic health problems means many will require some degree of health nursing. Immigration restrictions are having an impact on an already short of staff workforce. Staff shortages which are further fueled by the high turnover of workers. All of this translating to 4.2 million job openings in the next 5 years.
One ray of hope in addressing this workforce gap are the recent steps towards giving home health aides the recognition and appreciation they deserve. Since 2016 home health aides are guaranteed federal minimum-wage, a long overdue step. Congress is trying to encourage solutions through grants with the Direct CARE Opportunity Act. And there have been contested moves to ensure home care workers are paid for the full amount of their time they spend on duty.
For now, those in the profession describe their jobs as a calling and derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from their work. To address the workforce gap, however, more will have to be done in the future to make this career equally as rewarding as less demanding jobs.
On the Job, 24 Hours a Day, 27 Days a Month is highly recommended for anyone looking to better understand America’s chronic shortage of home care workers.