Home Health Industry Grows Rapidly, But Not All Workers Are Qualified for Senior Care

Many senior living providers are considering diversifying their service lines by adding home health care services, but those in the market for acquiring a home health agency must exercise caution regarding who they work with, a new study from Northwestern Medicine Research suggests.

With 10,000 baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare each day, the need for caregivers is skyrocketing. Paid home care workers belong to the fastest growing occupation in the United States, and jobs are expected to increase by 56% over the next decade, according to Caregiving in America.

But not all caregivers serving in a professional capacity are qualified for the job, and only a third of home health agencies test for caregiver skill competency, the report revealed.


“Previous research suggests that individuals serving in these caregiving positions may not be adequately prepared for all that the position requires of them when caring for an older adult,” said the Northwestern report.

Caregivers often administer medication regimens that can be very complex, and incorrect medication administration could have a significant impact on the overall health of the people for whom care is being provided.

“This is of great concern, because paid caregivers assume responsibility for the majority of older adults’ health needs,” said the Northwestern report, which found that only one-third of agencies said they drug tested their employees.


Workers in the profession are often paid lower lower than those in other fields. A study published by Genworth Financial found the average hourly wage for a licensed home health aide was $19 in 2012.

While the pay might not be good for the workers, it’s often the least expensive option for the consumer who needs care, as the median cost of assisted living setting is about $3,300 per month, according to Genworth.

The cost of in-home care has stayed relatively the same over the years as well.

“Home care rates have remained flat in part because of increased competition among agencies and the availability of unskilled labor, and because the companies that provide these types of services do not incur the costs associated with maintaining stand-alone health care facilities,” said Genworth in its annual cost of care report.

Demand for in-home care may continue to rise considering its comparatively lower costs and AARP’s finding that about 90% of mature adults prefer to stay in their homes as long as they can.

Going forward, the country needs to address the quality of home health aides with as the older population continues to age and more families expected to rely on paid caregivers to remain independent in their homes, says Northwestern.

Better regulation is needed to protect consumers, suggests the report, but federal and state lawmakers should be cautious:

“Policy responses should be considered carefully, because costly regulatory measures could translate into greater fees passed on to older adult consumers. Using these agencies is already a costly endeavor for most older adults.”

If the costs go up, older adults and their families may resort to hiring cheap, unskilled caregivers “off the street,” potentially resulting in greater patient safety and quality concerns if reforms are not thoughtfully devised, said the report.

This content is sponsored with information provided by Genworth.