How Do We Support Home Care Workers Who Want Full-Time Work?
A key step toward addressing the nationwide shortage of home care workers is to effectively deploy existing workers. In a recent research brief, PHI found that 40 percent of home care workers typically work fewer than 35 hours per week—and among these part-time workers, one in four report that they want—but cannot find—full-time hours. At the same time, employers struggle to fill all their home care shifts to meet their clients’ needs.
One possible solution for helping workers find full-time work—and employers match their clients with these workers—is technology. PHI’s Stephen Campbell recently spoke with Dr. Charlene Brown, the physician founder and CEO of ReciproCare. Based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Dr. Brown launched ReciproCare in 2017 to connect caregivers and employers so that workers can attain the hours they need, employers can strengthen their service capacity, and clients can enjoy better access to care. Currently, ReciproCare primarily serves the Mid-Atlantic region, but with plans to expand in the future.
Stephen Campbell: When did you first become aware that home care workers were struggling to find full-time work?
Dr. Charlene Brown: I have family members who have worked as home care workers and struggled to make ends meet. I first learned about the home care workforce crisis through their lens. As a public health physician, I didn’t understand why it was so hard for these workers to find enough hours of work, given the immense demand for care.
SC: Our new research found that many home care workers struggle to work full time because of health conditions, because they have to take care of their family members, or because they cannot find full-time work, among other reasons. What did you think of our findings?
CB: The findings resonate with what we hear from caregivers. One caregiver told me that her agency shortened her daily home care shift by three hours due to changes in the client’s needs. She would have loved to find another shift for two or three hours, but couldn’t find an opportunity that fit between her existing job and evening classes. Yet, agencies struggle to fill shorter shifts. In scenarios like this, a caregiver and an agency might be a perfect match, but they just don’t know how to find one another.
SC: Tell me more about how situations like that arise.
CB: Clients require different kinds of care at varying times and places. They might need workers with specific skills, certifications, or preferences. One family might need a worker with dementia care experience who is willing to work with a smoker on weekends, whereas a family on the other side of town might need 24-hour care from a certified nursing assistant who can operate a Hoyer Lift. But when caregivers apply for jobs at home care agencies, they are often applying to a job posting that doesn’t specify location, hours, or clients’ needs and preferences.
SC: So with ReciproCare, you’re trying to close the gaps among employers, workers, and clients, right? Can you tell me more about that?
CB: That’s right. ReciproCare is an online jobs platform and caregiver marketplace that helps senior care companies find the right caregivers for their clients. It also helps caregivers find the right jobs for their needs. On ReciproCare, any type of senior care company can post jobs and search for available caregivers based on location, skills, experience, and more. Similarly, caregivers can use ReciproCare to easily find and apply to jobs. Our goal is to help solve barriers to full employment for those who make a living by providing care to our nation’s seniors.
SC: Can you share any success stories?
CB: I can recall one caregiver who struggled a bit with technology. With a little help from our Senior Caregiver Specialist, Ms. Augustina Fynn, the caregiver completed our comprehensive application quickly and applied to jobs. Instead of going into home care agency offices to fill out applications, she could apply on her own and connect with the companies that honor our application. She got an interview and, later, a job offer. She called us on her way home from the interview because she was so happy with the convenience of it all.
SC: Thanks for sharing your work with us. Before we conclude, can you share one hope you have for home care in the future?
CB: There’s an absolute shortage of caregivers who can deliver the care that our nation’s seniors need, yet your research shows that 40 percent of current workers are not working full time. While I believe that increasing the caregiver pipeline is essential, it’s also important for us to invest in innovative workforce solutions that leverage the existing workforce. Making it easier for caregivers, especially underemployed caregivers, to find more work hours is one important step in addressing the workforce crisis. That’s where solutions like ReciproCare can help.