Saturday, May 09, 2009

Home Health Aides are underpaid, could become scarce, according to Post story today

The Washington Post Magazine has disturbing story for the Mothers’ Day May 10, 2009. The front page cover has the title “Cut-Rate Angels: America is increasingly relying on home-care aides like Marilyn Daniel to keep the elderly out of nursing homes. Yet we barely pay them a living wage,” with the link here. On p 12, the story, with a nighttime picture appears: “Marilyn Daniel’s Reward: She works long hours for low wages as a home health aide – a job so demanding and underappreciated that others leave in droves. So why hasn’t she”.

The author of the article, Paula Span, will have a question and answer Monday May 11 at 11 AM EDT at the Washington Post website.

The link for the story is this.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the occupation category of “personal and home-care aides” is the nation’s second largest growing job category.

But typically they have no health insurance and benefits and work as freelancers through home health agencies.

The article indicates home health in the Washington DC area typically costs $17 to $19 an hour, with $1500 a month a typical expenditure. Assisted Living typically runs $3700 to $4000 a month (whereas “senior apartments” away from major cities for adults requiring no services can be quite reasonable). A shared room in a nursing home can raise $7000 a month.

The article says that a man reaching 65 today can expect to reach age 82, whereas a woman can reach 85. The article discusses infirmity in many of the elderly, although some people, as in the “Blue Zones” (as on Oprah), reach 100 with little assistance.

But with a population aging, and becoming infirm because medicine, as it is practiced, often does not maintain vitality, the need for custodial care will grow. More and more it will fall on family members, including more of those who never had children or never married, even men. There is a bit of karma to deal with here: we depend on people to do what we don't want to do ourselves -- and this gets to an existential area that affects with how we see ourselves in relation to others. That circles back around to our old fashioned thinking about moral issues -- that community matters as well as the individual, and that some uncertainty and risk sharing must be taken on by everyone. But this is also an area where gender really does matter, sometimes.

AOL published a post by Anthony Balderrama, writer, "7 Stable Jobs" here on June 11, 2009, mentions, as item 6, "Personal and Home Care Aides", and indicates a low annual earnings, around $22000. That entry reinforces the Post story above. The job market is becoming much more weighted toward personal interaction than it was fifteen years ago.

A tangentially related story, however, appears in The Washington Post June 14, by Annie Gowen, "Nannies No Longer Rule the Roost: Parents Regain Economic Power to Be Picky in Hiring Help", link here.

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