Challenges Faced by In-Home Caregivers who Provide Essential Services During COVID-19
Physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals are at the forefront of the fight against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They are the first in line – they care for the coronavirus patients and they are exposed to the virus daily. Even medical professionals who are not currently working with COVID-19 patients have to take adequate precautions, especially if the pandemic expands.
But medical professionals are not the only professionals exposed to the threats of the new pandemic. Although hospitals received a lot of attention during the past few months, nursing homes and other establishments offering long term support for senior citizens have also been affected. Data shows that nursing homes across the country have registered thousands of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus.
Another sector that was massively affected by the coronavirus outbreak is the senior home care service sector. This sector is hugely important when it comes to offering long term support for senior citizens and it employs thousands of professionals. These are the people who come into contact with vulnerable seniors every day, in their homes. Home health aides, personal care assistants, nurses, therapists, and other professionals come into contact with seniors every day across the country. Recent data shows that about 5 million Americans receive some form of paid home care, so the risk caused by the pandemic is immense. Now, senior home care agencies will have to offer support both to senior citizens and for patients recovering from COVID-19, so special safety precautions must be implemented.
There’s an increased demand for senior home care in Tampa
The home care sector was understaffed even before the coronavirus outbreak. Agencies were always looking for new staff and training was provided to all new members. Now, considering the new challenges, the need for qualified, experienced staff is even more drastic.
The reason behind this increased need is simple – not all coronavirus patients require hospitalization. Only critical or serious cases are handled by hospitals. All other cases are treated at home – and this is where the personal care assistants and home care aides come into action. Also, some patients that were discharged from the hospital will require more care at home, which is often done by these professionals. Older adults, who cannot properly take care of themselves are usually the clients for home care agencies. Similarly, many patients who already suffer from underlying medical conditions will be less inclined to visit hospitals, preferred home care services.
The data is clear – the market for senior home care in Tampa is already growing and will expand even more. There will be a high demand for these services. This will be a major advantage for the medical sector, as it will be less stressed, with fewer patients handled directly. Simply put, only the serious cases will be admitted to the hospital, all other cases will be handled by home care agencies.
People working in this sector have the qualifications needed to work with seniors and have extensive experience. However, the new threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic create new challenges. There are underlying factors as well. For instance, about 90 percent of the home care workforce consists of women. 60 percent of them don’t have a college degree and many of them come from various religious and ethnic minority groups, who were hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. What’s more, one in five of these workers lacks health insurance and their median age is 49 years. Similarly, they receive some of the lowest salaries in the economy, hovering around $10 to $12 per hour.
Many workers also travel extensively, from one home to another, often multiple times a day. This increases the risk of infection, both for the worker and the patient. This creates an additional problem – many potential candidates refuse to work as personal care assistants or home care aides.
How can these workers stay safe? How can they protect themselves and the seniors they care for? What are the recommendations for these workers? Let’s take a closer look:
- all home care workers must have access to excellent personal protective equipment – this includes masks, gloves, and other protective equipment
- all home care workers and their clients need regular COVID-19 testing
- all home care workers should be employed as full-time employees, with paid sick leave and good health insurance, particularly during the pandemic
- more flexibility is needed in the sector, especially during the ongoing pandemic; some care can be given via telephone or video conferencing; telehealth is allowed for some senior home care agencies; virtual, remote training for staff can also be improved
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should expand the definition of home health in order to include personal care as well; this will help clients who are socially isolated or overcrowd nursing homes; this will also help patients because Medicare will be able to pay for these services
- CMS must also expand the definition of homebound to care qualify for home care services
- Federal funding should be available in order to support this system; this will help reduce the stress on the medical system, which is already overwhelmed and overcrowded
- More home care workers and personal assistants should be hired in the coming months; these employees can come from industries which were particularly affected by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, such as the hospitality sector; these individuals must be trained for their new roles
- As the need for senior home care in Tampa rises and home care workers provide more complex services, they will need better training; a proper authorization process must be implemented and their compensation should be adequate; in many cases, home care workers do tasks reserved to better trained registered nurses or licensed practical nurses
- The profound deficit in-home care worker training must be dealt with; this type of career needs more growth opportunities, better pay and more training