Download our fact sheet for an overview of the direct-care workforce in Illinois.
Approximately 150,000 direct-care workers currently provide up to 80 percent of the hands-on care and support to elders and people with disabilities in Chicago and across the state. With its population of individuals over the age of 60 expected to reach 2.4 million, the Illinois direct-care workforce is projected to grow by 23% in the current decade, through 2020.
Overall employment demand in Illinois will grow by just 9% in the same period. Dramatic growth is expected among home health aides (42%) and personal care aides (33%), totaling 22,000 new jobs by 2020. This growth makes these two direct-care occupations the second and fourth fastest growing in the state.
Along with the growth in home and community based support, long-term care in nursing facilities is moving towards more person-centered care and a culture change movement that requires strong communication skills, teamwork, and respectful relationships between direct-care workers, management and the residents they support.
In order to meet the growth, changing service delivery environments and deliver quality care, Illinois must address issues that impact the quality of direct-care jobs.
Median wages for home health aides and personal care aides are $10.56 and $10.18, respectively, with wages for nursing assistants at $11.46, all far below the median wage of $17.18 for Illinois occupations.
Training standards, particularly in the home care sector, are inadequate and allow significant inconsistency in how training is delivered. The state’s Community Care Program for elders requires only training of 24 hours for agency-based home care aides. The Home Supports Program serving people with physical disabilities, a consumer-directed program, leaves workforce training entirely optional. These challenges can leave workers without baseline skills needed to serve their clients effectively, or the ability to take on new roles as consumer needs evolve.
Challenging Workplace Cultures
One reason often cited for direct-care workforce turnover is poor-quality, unsupportive supervision. Workers and consumers thrive in environments that value teamwork, communication, and critical thinking. While these are often considered “soft skills,” they are essential to delivering person-centered services, and to successful quality improvement efforts.
Turnover in this field ranges from 40% to 65%, depending on the setting. Turnover is influenced by the above factors, and significantly impacts the quality of care that consumers receive, fostering a “revolving door” of caregivers.