One of the most challenging things I’ve had to deal with since becoming an adult is hiring PCAs. Nationwide, there is a shortage of support professionals for people with disabilities and the elderly. New York has one of the nation’s most significant predicted shortages of home health aides, followed by other mid-Atlantic and Midwest states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
According to research by the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York, 74% of older citizens and individuals with disabilities in New York could not retain home care employees in 2021.
The shortage is only predicted to get worse. To meet the demand for services as millions of baby boomers reach their 70s and may require greater support at home, the home care industry will need an additional 450,000 home health care aides by 2025.
The shortage is affecting millions of people with disabilities as well. 23-year-old Noah Spaulding, who has Cerebral Palsy, was forced to attend college classes remotely in the spring. The original plan for Spaulding to have live-in caregivers at Messiah College fell through.
I have Cerebral Palsy like Spaulding and have experienced the shortage firsthand. I went through three different PCAs in three semesters of college. Often, my mother and a friend filled in. It forced them to adjust their schedules in order to accommodate me. I felt bad and questioned whether going to college was worthwhile considering how stressed I was at the time. If I had lived on campus, it would have been quite challenging. Westfield State is almost an hour away from my home. My parents would’ve been forced to drive there whenever I needed help.
In this profession, turnover is high. Staff are tough to find because to low pay and few, if any, benefits. These jobs frequently don’t offer sick days, retirement plans, or health insurance. The average hourly pay in Spaulding’s state, $13.40, leads people to choose alternative careers. In upstate New York, fast food workers, have made $15 an hour since last summer. On the other hand, home care employees in upstate New York are paid only $13.20 per hour. Home care employees should be paid fairly as well.
Without my PCAs, life would change in an instant. My PCA helps me shower, dress, and use the bathroom. With his help, I can live in my own apartment. He takes me to the movie theater, grocery shopping, restaurants, and the mall. I would have limited access to my community without PCAs and Medicaid. Nobody should be forced to live in a facility. We need to fix the shortage now because people’s lives depend on it.
McKay, Morgan. “NY Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers Raised to $15 per Hour.” Spectrum News , Spectrum News , 1 July 2021, https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2021/07/02/ny-fast-food-worker-minimum-wage-raised-to–15-per-hour.
Rey, Michelle Del. “Wages for Home Care Workers to Increase by $3.” Times Union, Times Union, 14 Apr. 2022, https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/Wages-for-home-care-workers-to-increase-by-3-17078683.php.
Taddeo, Sarah. “Caregiver Shortage: ‘No Pool of People to Pull from Now’.” Buffalo News, Buffalo News, 11 June 2022, https://buffalonews.com/business/local/caregiver-shortage-no-pool-of-people-to-pull-from-now/article_769c12ce-e754-11ec-a974-4f66fec59629.html.
Wenner, David. “Caregiver Shortage Threatens College Dream of Messiah Student with Cerebral Palsy.” The Patriot-News, The Patriot-News, 27 July 2022, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2022/07/caregiver-shortage-threatens-college-dream-of-messiah-student-with-cerebral-palsy.html.