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We Need a New Public Narrative on the Direct Care Job

By Robert Espinoza | August 23, 2021

The Biden-Harris administration is exciting news for direct care workers and the long-term care field.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced, direct care workers are essential to the health and survival of millions of older adults and people with disabilities. Yet the poor quality of direct care jobs—as evidenced by low compensation, inadequate training, limited career paths, and much more—harms workers’ financial security, hinders quality care, and drives many workers out of this sector, a costly and unsustainable trend.

How should President Biden transform the direct care workforce?

Our new report—Caring for the Future: The Power and Potential of America’s Direct Care Workforce—provides a blueprint for this transformation. This report offers a comprehensive, current-day analysis of the direct care workforce and its critical role in the long-term care system. It also provides an extensive list of recommendations across eight key areas, all of which present federal policy opportunities, as well as options for state and local officials. This article, the eighth in an eight-part series, describes a few critical ideas for shifting the public narrative on direct care workers.

Now is the time for federal leaders to strengthen direct care jobs—and here’s one place to start.

SHIFT THE PUBLIC NARRATIVE

To enable advocates to communicate effectively about direct care workforce issues and build broader awareness and support for this workforce

  • Fund public education campaigns that improve the general public’s understanding of the direct care workforce. Workforce, aging, and long-term care advocates have successfully designed public education campaigns in recent years to raise the visibility of challenges facing direct care workers and the value of these workers. Additional campaigns should be produced and well-funded across the country to build awareness and support for these workers, as well as to spark policy and practice improvements that transform the quality of their jobs.
  • Build communications capacity to effectively advocate for direct care workforce policy solutions. The long-term care sector could benefit from an investment in market research, framing strategies, and message-testing related to the direct care workforce, to support leaders in better communicating the challenges facing this workforce to different audiences (according to their roles, values, demographics, and more). In addition, the communications capacity of advocates should be bolstered to ensure they have the staffing, knowledge, and tools to advocate effectively for direct care workers.
  • Support storytelling projects that empower direct care workers to tell their stories in their own words. As the paid frontline of care for older adults and people with disabilities, direct care workers have a lot to say about their jobs, long-term care delivery, and the entire sector. Storytelling projects should be designed and well-funded to capture workers’ unique insights using various multi-media formats and storytelling approaches, and widely propagated across digital media and other outlets. These projects should be participatory, collaborative, and democratic, allowing a diverse cross-section of workers to tell their own stories.

 * The recommendations above are taken from Caring for the Future: The Power and Potential of America’s Direct Care Workforce.

Read the executive summary of Caring for the Future >>

Download The 5 Pillars of Direct Care Job Quality >>

Robert Espinoza
About The Author

Robert Espinoza

Vice President of Policy
Robert Espinoza oversees PHI's national policy, research, and communications division. He has been a national policy expert, communications strategist, and writer for 20 years.
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Caring for the Future

Our new policy report takes an extensive look at today's direct care workforce—in five installments.

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