Are you tired of hearing about the looming shortage of home caregivers? Actually, the shortage isn’t looming. It’s already here. It seems every home-care agency in town has a sign out front to recruit workers. I don’t have a magic wand to make things better, but I do have a suggestion that might help. I’m thinking gig economy, retiree-style.
Home caregivers provide a variety of nonmedical services in their clients’ homes — light housekeeping, preparing meals, helping with dressing and hygiene, providing companionship and transportation, and so on. Schedules range from a few hours a week to full time. Caregivers help aging seniors, and people of any age who have functional limitations, live safely at home.
But there’s a supply-and-demand problem: way too much demand for care, not nearly enough supply of caregivers. This lopsided equation has gotten plenty of attention but little traction toward a solution.
Just look at the numbers. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. By 2050, the U.S. 65-and-older population will double, from 47.8 million now to 88 million (the 85-and-older headcount will triple). Some 2 million home-care workers are helping about 11 million seniors and people with disabilities. By 2022 — a scant five years from now — another million caregivers will be needed.
Unfortunately, half of the current workforce departs every year, driven out by low wages, erratic schedules, no career ladder and the lack of respect for their professional services. Who would stay in a $10-an-hour job if something else pays $11?
I know some folks who might be interested: retirees looking to work part-time. Their motives vary — a little extra income, helping their community, staying active. Usually they don’t want full-time work. They want flexible schedules that allow for travel, time with families, social activities and other good things. Some RVers travel to seasonal work, maybe to a national park in the summer and, during the holiday rush, to an online retailer’s shipping hub to fill orders.
If this sounds like you, home caregiving could be a great choice. The job doesn’t require long hours of standing or walking, as do many seasonal jobs. And the skills are portable and in high demand — there’s a huge need for qualified caregivers virtually everywhere. Most importantly, it’s a chance to make a profound difference in the lives of vulnerable people who need your help.
Given the responsibilities, becoming a professional caregiver is surprisingly easy. Caregiver training is widely available; if classes aren’t available in your community, online training is an option. A quick search on “caregiver training” will point you to many training opportunities.
Home-care agencies which contract with Medicaid (or the state equivalent, such as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, better known as AHCCCS) must hire workers who have training, and some agencies offer in-house training at no cost. Some even offer training stipends.
Once you’re trained, connecting with agencies as you travel is your best route to finding employment. Of course, you could work as a private-hire caregiver, with no required training. But I don’t recommend it, because you — and your client — lose all the support, supervision and protection an agency provides. Beyond that, without documented training or a verifiable employment history, your ability to find work as you travel is seriously compromised.
Please think about it. Becoming a professional caregiver could open new doors — flexible hours, travel when you want to, easy-to-find employment, and the chance to do something really important. The pay can supplement your income, and the other rewards are awesome.