Report: Home Care Workforce Crisis Requires Bold, Swift Action

A looming critical crisis in the personal care workforce requires governments and stakeholders to radically rethink the role of caregivers, according to Building the Caregiving Workforce Our Aging World Needs, a new report from the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA).

“This report is intended as a wake-up call for the urgent actions that must be taken to address the global crisis of care, which is already gripping nations around the world,” said Home Instead CEO Jeff Huber, a co-sponsor of the report.

Immediate action is required to meet the expanding caregiving needs of the “silver tsunami,” a population adding 10,000 new senior citizens every day, assert the report’s authors. Approximately 70 percent of the elderly will have considerable need for long-term care.

These massive needs, combined with the overwhelming desire the elderly have to maintain their independence and age in their own homes and communities, will require a large and relatively stable personal care workforce long in to the future. While technology can take on many of the tasks of caring for the elderly, “it will never entirely replace the role played by professional caregivers in ensuring the mental, emotional and physical health of the world’s aging population,” reads the report.

Specifically, the report recommends:

  1. Change the perception of the caregiving profession – champion campaigns to change perception of  caregiving, from a low-skilled job of last resort to a valued, professional career of the future.
  2. Bolster training and education standards – care providers and governments work to establish quality standards.
  3. Support and reward professional caregivers commensurate with the demands of the job and the value they provide – employers across public, private and nonprofit sectors must pay more attention to the emotional and financial needs of professional caregivers – especially if they are to attract young, purpose-driven talent.
  4. Fully integrate the home care workforce into the health and social-care ecosystem – the professional status of home care workers must keep pace with the demand for and value of this type of care.

“These recommendations are designed to act as a catalyst for action and collaboration from a multisector, multidisciplinary group of stakeholders,” said Melissa Gong Mitchell, Executive Director of GCOA. “As aging affects each and every one of us – our parents and grandparents today and ourselves and our children in the future – innovation and action must start now if we are to build a robust, thriving workforce of professional caregivers. Each recommendation in our report builds on the others, and no single area can be ignored if we truly want to address this care crisis.”

Failure to properly address the critical needs of the caregiver workforce will reduce care options for the disabled and elderly, according to the authors, as well as cause deteriorating health outcomes and higher health care costs.

The report’s authors write that while “older people and their families recognize the value professional caregivers provide, caregiving is still too often considered low-status work,” write the report’s authors. “A variety of factors contribute to this lack of respect for caregiving, each of which makes it difficult to recruit and retain skilled professionals around the world. It is time for universally accepted ideas about the caregiving workforce to correspond with the shifts in supply and demand — and the increasing need of this work within society.”

Annual turnover among home care workers in the United States is between 40 percent and 60 percent, according to the report.

“By ensuring our caregiving workforce around the world is recognized and appropriately rewarded for the value they provide to our aging society, we can also ensure that quality care can be achievable for all,” said Francesca Colombo, Head of the Health Division at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Further, as we make the caregiving profession more attractive, we will subsequently uplift families, health systems and economies by alleviating family caregiving burden, mitigating healthcare costs and fueling a job creation engine. In their new report, the Global Coalition on Aging and Home Instead have called out the conversation we need to be having about the future of care and the future of work, and we at the OECD look forward to working toward solutions, together.”