The caregiver shortage among the entire U.S. healthcare system is not a secret, but the demand for home healthcare workers, in particular, is skyrocketing.
Each day, approximately 10,000 people turn 65 in the U.S. as the baby boomer generation has entered into the senior category. The majority of this population desires to retire in the comfort of their own homes but will require some kind of home health need to do so. Thus, home healthcare workers have been in high demand since 2011 – when the first of the baby boomers turned 65. By 2030, when all Baby Boomers will have turned 65, roughly 18% of the nation’s population will be seniors, according to Pew Research Center population projections.
Increased Demand for Home Healthcare Workers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 2.8 million jobs were added in the healthcare sector from 2006 through 2016 – a rate seven times faster than the rest of the economy. And, the demand for home healthcare workers has escalated faster than any other practice areas. Why?
Outside of the increased volume of baby boomer patients, policy changes are impacting the high demand for home healthcare services. As home healthcare is being held up by policymakers as a cost-effective solution to medical costs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to make changes which push patients out of hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes, and into home health services.
In a CNBC article, Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice reported, “2015 was the first time nationally that more money was spent on home care than nursing home care.”
Home Care Services
Home care organizations provide various services for patients depending on their medical needs. In 2015, 78.3 percent of home care organizations in the U.S. provided skilled nursing, 69.3 percent provided assisted living, and 53.8 percent provided speech therapy.
Currently, most of the patients receiving home care in the U.S. are over 65 years old, with approximately 96 percent requiring assistance with bathing and 88 percent requiring assistance transferring in and out of bed. Seniors age 85 or older with limitations in three or more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) receive about 11 hours of assistance per day. Thus, the high volume of patients requiring assistance with ADLs translates to an increased need for home health aides.
Home Health Jobs in High Demand
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for home health aides will increase to as high as 41 percent by 2026. This equates to more than 4 million new home health care aides in less than 10 years. This does not even account for other skilled care areas of home health services including nurses and therapists. Bottom line – the increase in demand for services is going to equate to a huge shortage of all types of home healthcare professionals.
Specialized Training for Home Healthcare Professionals
Home healthcare workers require the same medical degree and training as healthcare workers in any other care setting. However, home healthcare professionals need specialized training that equips them to keep a close eye on the psychological and behavioral status of a person in the home. Since loneliness, boredom, depression, and helplessness are more common among senior citizens who are confined to their houses, it is crucial for these workers to identify and report any issues in a timely manner.
Additionally, home healthcare providers must learn to develop a unique rapport with patients while caring for them in the privacy of their own home. This means there is not simply a gap in filling job positions, but the need for home health agencies to hire a suitably trained, passionate, and understanding workforce.
There are also various documentation and billing requirements that home healthcare workers need to be familiar with in order to receive reimbursement for services provided. And, there are driving, patient safety, and infection control standards that must be adhered to. Meaning, a healthcare professional can’t simply jump from hospital care to home care without receiving proper training.
Solutions for Home Care Agencies
The biggest threat to home care agencies is the caregiver shortage. There are few alternatives on how and where to generate the over 4 million new workers needed in the labor force in just under 10 years. Simply hiring additional home healthcare workers and properly training them seems to be the only option to meet the demand. But, agencies will also need to prevent caregiver turnover within their organizations in order to survive. The best way to do this is to provide high-quality care, create a positive work culture, deliver ongoing training and education, and award and recognize good employees.
On the flip side, if you are a healthcare professional considering a home health career, now is a great time to start. Learn more here:
 Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends
 CNBC: As the US population ages, the need for home health-care workers skyrockets
 Statista: Home care in the U.S. – Statistics & Facts
 Health Affairs: Health Care Jobs Projected To Continue To Grow Far Faster Than Jobs In The General Economy