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Sen. Harkin Expresses National Need for a Strong Direct-Care Workforce

May 17, 2012

Sen. Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a “sense of the Senate” resolution (pdf) on May 10 expressing the need for a comprehensive approach to expanding and supporting a strong home care workforce, as well as making long-term services and supports affordable and accessible to elders and people with disabilities.

Among the reasons cited for a comprehensive policy approach to meeting the nation’s caregiving needs are:

  • Over the course of the next two decades, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will increase from 40 million to 70 million; 70 percent of Americans over 65 require some form of long-term services and supports.
  • There are currently 12 million adults, nearly half of whom are 65 or older, who are in need of long-term services and supports due to functional limitations; this is project to grow to 27 million by 2050.
  • The current direct-care workforce is well over 3 million strong — with an additional 1.8 million workers needed over the next decade to keep pace with growing demand. This workforce provides 70 to 80 percent of the hands-on care and personal assistance received by Americans who are elderly or living with disabilities or other conditions.
  • The quality of home care jobs is poor with low wages, few benefits, high turnover and a high level of job stress and hazards.

The Resolution focuses on a range of policy solutions that include job creation, job quality, workforce training and advancement, pathways to citizenship, and strategies to make care affordable and accessible to consumers and their families.

These solutions are embedded in the Caring Across Generation policy platform and are part of its educational and advocacy efforts.

Caring Across Generations is a campaign to transform long term care in the U.S. for individuals who rely on these services and supports and for the workers who provide home care. PHI is a member of the campaign and serves on its Leadership Committee.

— by Carol Regan, PHI Government Affairs Director

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