With a rapidly aging population that increasingly wishes to age in place even before the pandemic, the demand for home care will continue to increase against the backdrop of existing care worker shortages. A recent PHI study indicates that as many as 7.4 million new care workers will be needed by 2029 to meet the need.
Healthcare is moving to the home, and home care will play a more prominent role in the broader care continuum, providing better outcomes at a lower cost while allowing older adults to age in place. The greatest challenge facing home care today is the recruitment and retention of direct care workers. We must urgently turn our attention to building up the home care workforce to continue delivering the best home care for our growing older adult population.
Why this matters
In the midst of this home care boom, wage stagnation for this critical workforce threatens the growth and sustainability of this model of care. Direct care workers have the lowest annual earnings of all caregivers, due in part to the low reimbursement rates made available to home care agencies, which has made it challenging to recruit new entrants to the profession.
Improving recruiting and retention of the direct care workforce starts with uplifting and empowering their role, pay, and career paths. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan shines a light on this critical line of work and paves a path for uplifting existing caregivers by seeking to solve the artificial wage ceiling created by reimbursement rates, as well as recruiting and training new entrants into the workforce.
How we do it
In meeting this unique challenge and opportunity, continuing education is a powerful tool for recruiting, onboarding and retaining top talent. By increasing access to quality training for their employees, home care providers can set themselves apart by preparing and supporting their workforce while giving them the tools to upskill and advance in their careers.
There are three approaches agencies can take toward upskilling their direct care workers:
- Go beyond the minimum required training. Provide direct care staff with access to high quality ongoing training that is designed to empower caregivers with the advanced skills needed to meet the needs of their clients, promoting continuous learning to ensure the best possible care quality for clients.
- Create upskilling pathways. Provide access to additional training opportunities to stack credentials and move into higher, more complex care levels that may have higher reimbursable rates and higher wages.
- Open up routes to advanced certifications and higher education. Enable the pursuit of advanced learning opportunities through providing things like tuition reimbursement and schedule flexibility to create time to take external classes, and where possible, connecting direct training to college credit as with the CAREer Path Initiative from Southern New Hampshire University and CareAcademy.
Combining professional experience and training with pathways to advanced certifications, higher education, and healthcare careers not only elevates the direct care position itself, but also offers solutions for filling the massive worker shortfall facing home care.
The future of work is home care
As healthcare shifts to the home, the industry has a clear mandate to meet the needs of a growing workforce opportunity, while recognizing the talent and hard work direct care workers are undertaking to address this challenge. Enabling the direct care workforce requires stackable credentials that allow these professionals to learn while they earn. The impact of COVID has shown everyone the power of online learning and its impact on how work gets done.
Healthcare has a massive shortfall of new direct care workers, and workforce enablement and development platforms will play a vital role in the training of new workers. Furthermore, we can attract talent and reward direct care workers for the skills and competencies they’re already building, putting home care on the same footing as some of the largest companies in the world. If companies like Starbucks and Amazon can offer their employees pathways to education to advance their careers, there is no reason why the home care industry can’t do the same. It’s time to show up for our caregivers and the clients they serve.
Helen Adeosun, CEO and founder of CareAcademy, has had a career in driving outcomes for adult learners and has been listed as one of Fortune’s 2020 40 Under 40 in Health. The company recently launched the CAREer Path Initiative, an all-encompassing program designed to address critical industry constraints and attract more workers into the profession.
This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living