HARRISON, Ark. (KOLR) — One of the fastest growing professions in America is in-home healthcare, specifically positions for personal care assistants.
But as more Americans choose options outside the nursing home, supply may have a difficult time keeping up with demand.
“I think it was around six-weeks,” says Jackie Riddlesperger, who used an in-home health aide after her recent stay in the hospital, “and I had a different [professional care assistant] each day and they all turned out great.”
Riddlesperger says as much as she enjoyed help with cooking, cleaning and care, just having someone in her home during the recovery process, might have been the biggest form of help.
“I liked the visitation part,” she says, “that was probably what got me over the hump is having someone to talk to and visit with.”
Later in life, seniors and their families may opt to have a PCA around for much longer than six-weeks.
New data from the Bureau of Labor shows it is a trend that is rapidly growing and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
“We anticipate the growth [for PCAs] will be about 38-percent in a 10-year period,” says Jerry Mitchell, executive director for the Area Agency on Aging for Northwest Arkansas.
Mitchell’s non-profit agency covers nine counties in northern Arkansas, offering services ranging from senior centers to adult day cares.
The agency’s PCA division had more than 700-employees last year.
“However, our turnover rate is horrendous,” he says. “We will hire 250 a year and we will lose 125 or 150.”
“We can’t retain them,” Mitchell says.
The going rate for PCA not only comes at a cost to the employees themselves – the average income for a PCA in northern Arkansas is $19,820 a year – but also the people they are caring for.
Mitchell says the high turnover rate also comes with a steep learning curve, even after the 40-hours of training is factored in.
“[The PCA] may be doing the best job they know how,” he says, “but there’s still some experience that could help them out.”
State and Federal money currently makes up about 30-percent of the agency’s funding.
But Mitchell might be more concerned with keeping the funding his agency is currently getting, rather than asking the government for more.
“We don’t need to be cutting some of the Medicare and Medicaid dollars that our most vulnerable population needs to be able to be taken care of,” he says.
“Why are we willing to pay more for somebody to wash our car than for someone to give grandma a bath? Where is our priorities in all of this?”
If supply doesn’t keep up with future demand, it could push up the cost of in-home care on its own. For those with Medicaid, it’s currently around $18 an hour.