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The problems of social care are not confined to the UK

As we continue to wrestle with the problems of social care in England, and the continued delay of government reform, it is a sobering thought to think that we are not alone in being confronted by the issue.

An article in the United States Home Health Care News by Joyce Famakinwa highlights similar issues in the US. As the U.S. population ages, there has been a struggle to keep up with the demand for caregivers. It is claimed that building the caregiver workforce will take a number of strategies that each address the various challenges that these workers face.

Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) Report

Several recommendations were highlighted in a new report by the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and Home Instead Senior Care. The report examines the current state of the global caregiving workforce.

“It was really important for us not only to paint a picture that was compelling, as to why we need to transform the caregiving profession around the world, (but to also) provide very specific recommendations on next steps to continue the conversation,” Jisella Dolan, chief advocacy officer at Home Instead Senior Care, told Home Health Care News. “This is an ongoing journey of progress across the industry, at Home Instead and with home care providers everywhere.”

Spike in demand for caregivers

Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, some statistics suggest. Within the aging population, about 70% of individuals have severe needs for long-term services and support. Plus, receiving care in the home setting has become increasingly popular among seniors. Almost 80% of adults 50 and older have a desire to stay in their homes as they age, according to AARP.

These demographic realities and care delivery preferences have led to a spike in the demand for caregivers. At the same time, the home-based care industry is experiencing a workforce shortage. In fact, a national shortage of 151,000 caregivers will exist by 2030. There will be 355,000-caregiver shortfall by 2040, according to the report.

Major shift required in the profession

In order to meet the growing demand for caregivers, there will need to be a major shift when it comes to the profession.

“While older people and their families recognise the value professional caregivers provide, caregiving is still too often considered low-status work,” the report states. “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.”

Increasing wages

One of the ways to begin closing the gap between caregiver supply and demand is by bumping up wages. Part of the reason recruitment can be a challenge in the home-based care industry is because caregiver wages are low. For caregivers, the median annual earnings in the U.S. is $20,000, below the poverty line for a family of four, according to the report.

“This really comes down to pay and benefits,” Dolan said. “As providers we make sure that we are paying top of the market and are providing benefits that are meaningful to the caregivers.”

Retention of the workforce

Building the caregiver workforce will also require providers to address retention. In general, low wages and the demanding nature of caregiver work can often lead to the high turnover that happens across the industry. In the U.S., turnover rates run between 40% and 60% for home care workers, according to the report.

Along these lines, providers should be considering the working conditions, employee benefits and the recruitment of the workers best suited to caregiving. Additionally, there needs to be uniform training and educational standards for professional caregivers and full integration of these workers into the health and social care ecosystem. “Home care is a huge facet of the health care ecosystem, Dolan said. “For us to evolve health care, we need to bring non-traditional providers into the conversation”.

Summary

This article shows that the problems facing social care in England are being experienced worldwide. Problems with recruitment, retention of staff and poor pay are all contributing to holding back the development of social care as a profession.

I cannot see any improvement in the situation some time soon. We need to see more value placed on the work of those providing care by government and society as a whole. We will not attract, nor retain people in social care until staff receive the rewards and professional recognition that they are entitled to.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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