Without improving conditions and raising pay, which hovers at $10 an hour, it may be impossible to meet skyrocketing demand for skilled and devoted workers.
This article first appeared October 19, 2016 on Kaiser Health News.
In recent months, health aides who care for elderly Americans at home appeared at scores of rallies calling for better pay and workplace conditions. President Barack Obama and some of the presidential candidates have pledged to improve the lives of these workers, who often struggle on the poverty-level wages they are paid.
Now, thanks to the "Fight for $15" movement hundreds of thousands of home care workers in at least five states will gradually receive significant hourly raises. And as result of a large organizing campaign, tens of thousands who have joined unions can negotiate for paid sick time, health and retirement benefits.
"The Fight for $15 and the simultaneous benefits is an amazing, unprecedented thing that I don't think anyone five years ago would have expected, given our hyper-polarized political environment," said Laura Dresser, a labor economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies the impact of low wages. "This is a workforce that's coming out of the shadows."
People with a deep understanding of eldercare policy say that without improving conditions and raising pay, which hovers at $10 an hour, it will be impossible to meet skyrocketing demand for skilled and devoted workers.
But they also argue that bigger paychecks and benefits will not have a significant impact on senior citizens unless their aides and assistants are also better screened, trained and organized.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.