Historically, families have provided a bulk of the care needed to keep seniors healthy and living at home. However, with the 85+ population now the fastest-growing group of Americans, it is becoming more challenging for families to provide that care. Today’s caregiver support ratio of 7:1 (seven potential family caregivers for every person 80 or older) is forecast to drop to 4:1 by 2030 and under 3:1 by 2050, according to AARP. Mobility creates an additional challenge; the average distance between adults 60+ and their nearest child is 280 miles.
Professional caregivers, including senior care workers, have been stepping in for decades to help supplement family caregiving. As the need for care rises so too does the need for a growing caregiving workforce. Unfortunately, however, the supply of caregivers is not keeping up with demand. According to a 2015 study from the UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care, in recent years, people have been departing from the professional caregiving sector at a faster rate than they’ve been joining it.
The emerging “care economy” creates new jobs and drives economic growth. As a starter job, a “second act” for older workers, or a lifetime career, caregiving is a vibrant and growing field for compassionate and hard-working individuals. As the field continues to grow, the home care industry, education system and policymakers must commit to ensuring an adequate pool of quality care workers. To do so will require continued attention to attractive career-development opportunities, including training, competitive wages and pathways for growth. Already leaders in the home care field are striving to be employers of choice and collaborating with policymakers on ways to elevate the caregiving profession.