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Number Of LTC Workers Declining, Threatening A Future 'Care Gap'

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An analysis by Genworth Financial Inc. finds the number of caregivers providing long term care services in the U.S. is dwindling, threatening to accelerate LTC costs that are already increasing at a startling rate.

Turnover for paraprofessional LTC workers in the U.S. is 13% to 18% above that of the workforce in general and 20% higher than other service workers, says Genworth, Richmond, Va., pointing to statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

By 2030, the number of Americans 65 years and older will double, Genworth’s analysis notes. Pointing to a report by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, New York, it warns the U.S. will need to recruit 200,000 new direct-care workers each year to meet future demand among the aging population.

Aggravating the situation, particularly for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, is a shift toward home and community-based care among LTC recipients. This is reflected in the fact that direct-care workers who provide care outside nursing homes or assisted-living facilities have increased threefold in recent years, the study reports.

Meanwhile, another recent study by Genworth found Medicare-certified home health aide rates average $38 an hour, up 18% over the year before.

“Unless something is done to directly address this growing care gap, not only will paying for long term care be difficult for many, but finding it may be as well,” noted Buck Stinson, president of Genworth’s Long Term Care Insurance business.

Whether received in a facility or at home, the cost of LTC can quickly wipe out a lifetime of savings, Stinson says.

“As most Americans prefer care in their homes, which puts a greater need on expanding home-based options, we must encourage families to start talking about long term care today and to incorporate it into their overall retirement strategy,” he says.

Other research by Genworth has found only around 10% of Americans are covered by an LTC policy.

Solutions to the workforce shortage must address such problems as the lack of career growth and educational opportunities in the profession, low wages, insufficient employee benefits, often-dangerous working conditions and low worker satisfaction, Genworth suggests.

With a rising need for LTC services, the lack of qualified workers could cause demand to reach a point where service shortages drive costs even higher, the study concludes.

“This in turn will result in a rise in the number of unpaid family caregivers, people who are often unprepared to deal with the physical, emotional and financial hardships of caring for a loved one,” the study warns.

Solutions to the LTC worker shortage require federal and state involvement in recruitment efforts, increased training, better wages and benefits and support for LTC workers in such programs as mentoring and information sharing, Genworth says.

Technology is also likely to lend a hand through advances in monitoring patients, the study suggests.