Home Health Aides Deserve More!

Home health aides are responsible for more than just sweeping the floors or doing the dishes. Their services range from attending to basic medical needs, bathing, and feeding clients and, to more importantly, being a companion. As it stands, though, home health aides are drastically underpaid and underappreciated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May of 2014, the median mean hourly wage for home health aides was $10.77, and the mean annual wage was $22,400[1]. Home health care is an extremely valuable service for clients and their families. Home Health providers give an extra hand in doing simple everyday activities. A caretaker can be a primary caregiver to the person, or they can be relief for a family member. As someone who had a family member that utilized a home health agency, I was shocked at how little home health aides receive.

Home health aides put so much into their job and receive the very minimum in return. The National Employment Law Project published the article, “Giving Caregivers a Raise: The Impact of a $15 Wage floor in the Home Care Industry[2],” which stated reasons why home health care aides should receive a raise. In more than 25 years, the senior population is expected to double from 40 million to 84 million[3]. With such a steep increase in this population, health care will need to adapt to the needs of seniors. This is where home health care can play a vital role. According to AARP, family members are most likely to be the primary caregiver to an older loved one. This statistic is a staggering one when put into the context of the projected aging population. In 2050, there is projected to be an increase of aging baby boomers by 50%. With this great influx of aging adults, family caregivers won’t be able to meet the demand and more home health aides will be needed. It is extremely important to develop a decent living wage and stabilize the workforce for the future. As a 21 year old, home health care wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. However, after personally experiencing the how helpful a home care aid is, I understand how important they are to the overall function of our health care system. With that being said, the well being of the home health aides are extremely important. With the increase of the standard of living, there should be no question home health aides should have an increase in their wages.

Home care is beneficial for a number of different reasons. According to the “Giving Caregivers a Raise” article, one main reason is that home care is more cost effective than public institutionalization. Not only is home care more cost effective, but seniors also tend to prefer it, wanting to remain in the comfort of their home for as long as possible. Home health care allows them to do that. However, with the fast increasing home health industries, it is essential to raise the minimum wage to meet the needs of both the caregivers and the senior population. With a livable wage, home health aides will be less likely to leave home care agencies and find other occupations that pay more.

Since I have been interning at Iona, I have become aware of the increasing pay gap in home health aides salaries. Even though I have had family members who utilized the services offered by home health agencies, their overall salary was something that never crossed my mind. I am glad that Iona is fighting to increase the wages of home health aides. The services they provide are essential for those who have no one and are greatly appreciated by family caregivers.

The Long Term Care Coalition works to expand and improve the quality of long-term care programs to ensure that low-income Washington, DC residents with chronic and/or disability needs can age in the community safely and with dignity. We have made increasing pay for home health aides a priority in 2016 because we know how important home care workers are to the aging population. We will continue to advocate alongside home health care aides to raise the minimum wage to $15. Increased pay for home health aides will continue to be a part of our mission until health care workers received the pay they deserve.

[1] The Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 2015 http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311011.htm

[2] “Giving Caregivers a Raise: The Impact of a $15 Wage floor in the Home Care Industry”. February 2015. http://www.nelp.org/content/uploads/2015/03/Giving-Caregivers-A-Raise.pdf

[3]“Giving Caregivers a Raise: The Impact of a $15 Wage floor in the Home Care Industry”.