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Investing in Post-Acute Care, Caregiver Workforce Can Help Improve Staffing Shortage

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Direct and post-acute care workers experience many challenges in the workday. Their bodies are subject to physically demanding work and experience emotional stress with only median wages and little to no opportunity for career advancement.

Investing in direct or post-acute care workers could create more opportunities and help stabilize the quality of short-term or long-term care, according to researchers of a report published in the Health Affairs’ Forefront blog.

Researchers proposed in the investment of direct care worker’s professional development through recruitment, retention, and career advancement opportunities. This proposal reflects on the current issue of care facilities being understaffed and short of more than 400,000 professional caregivers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than four million direct care workers — including home health aides, personal care aides, professional caregivers, certified nursing assistants, and companions — support people experiencing chronic conditions and disabilities with activities of daily living such as bathing and mobility.

These direct and post-acute care workers experience many challenges in the workday; their bodies are subject to physically demanding work and they experience emotional stress with only median wages and little to no opportunity for career advancement..

Investing in these caregivers could enhance the capacity of the current direct care workforce, attract more caregivers to the profession, and support the well-being of these employees.

In response to the Biden administration calling for a $400 billion investment in home and community-based services, which would include developing the direct care workforce and family caregivers through training and opportunities for career advancement, researchers suggest some opportunities health organizations can take when receiving funds for these significant roles.

These funds could be designated through the portion of the $400 billion home- and community-based services investment allocated to local organizations or facilities.

Researchers suggest support to direct care workers and family caregivers could be seen as:

Training these workers as caregiving coaches to support other direct-care workers within their organization as well as family caregivers in their local or cultural community.

Training direct-care or post-acute care workers to become a comfort care family coach (CCFC) who supports family caregivers after a care recipient begins end-of-life care.

Enhance collaborative opportunities for these workers through a community caregiving squad (CCS) comprising a caregiving coach, CCFC, and other professionals such as community health workers who support family caregivers through and after a hospital discharge.

Post-acute or direct care workers could be trained to become administrators and develop their own caregiving organizations or specialize in the administration of services relevant and critical for caregiver well-being.

“Workforce development funds would offset the cost of additional benefits to employed (direct care workers) and in the longer term could increase capacity of home care agencies and skilled nursing facilities to serve the community through expanded availability of services by agencies that are currently understaffed, and through services to support family caregivers in the community,” researchers stated in the report.

Developing opportunities for growth within the direct care workforce is imperative for promoting the well-being of professional caregivers, the clients and families they support, and the sustainability of our long-term care service system, the report added.

Any effort in workforce development is crucial as the U.S. needs nearly 8 million caregivers in the next decade to meet demand for home care and nursing services. This can combat projections of a shortfall of more than 150,000 direct care workers by 2030 and 355,000 by 2040.

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