Three years ago, Shirley Thompson's life changed when she met home care worker Jasmin Almodovar.
"I don't know what I would do without her. Jasmin is priceless to me. She helps me with my meals, dressing, and hygiene. She takes me to my doctor appointments," Thompson explained. "She's like family, but she does more than I could ever ask my family to do."
Shirley never thought she'd need home care, but an injury on the job changed everything. She now needs assistance seven days a week with daily activities many take for granted. At first, she spent time in a nursing home, but now she's able to remain in her own home, thanks to Jasmin.
And she's not alone.
A new report released by the Home Care Fight for $15 and Caring Across Generations points out that 19 million seniors need care services--a number set to nearly double by 2050--but there aren't nearly enough home care workers to provide those services. Nationally, there are on average nine home care consumers for every home care worker, and in some states such as Florida, the ratio is as high as one worker for every 35 seniors. That divide will only grow as 10,000 people turn 65 every day.
"The senior care gap is the most serious issue facing aging Americans. There are simply not enough home care workers to meet the growing demand," said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union. "If we want to make sure our loved ones get the care they need, we must make home care jobs good jobs and create a well-funded long term care system that supports affordable, accessible, high-quality care. That's why home care consumers and home care workers across the country are part of the Fight for $15."
The report also emphasizes how a shortage of workers leaves nearly one-third of seniors in need of assistance and in jeopardy of missing meals, taking the wrong doses of medication, or left in wet or soiled clothes from not being able to use the bathroom for long periods of time.
"These findings prove what we've known all along--that as a nation, we've yet to address our unmet caregiving needs in a real way. And as a result, families are worried, stressed out, and scrambling to care for their loved ones," said Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations. "It's clear people are hungry for solutions, and it's time we address the needs of 21-st century families and invest in home care."
The solutions are clear and common sense. We need to restructure our long term care system so older Americans and their families can afford the care they need in the setting they choose. In order to ensure home care services are of the highest quality, we need to build a robust system for caregivers and consumers that includes higher wages to help maintain continuity of care, better training opportunities and clearer career pathways to support caring for more complex needs of the aging population.
An investment in our long term care system is an investment in our seniors. It ensures quality, affordable care with dignity, independence, and a better way of life.