As baby boomers age, the demands placed on the country’s health care system are increasing. That includes the home health care industry, which is undergoing changes to accommodate a growing senior population.

Home health care services allow people who require extra care to remain in their homes, reducing the burden otherwise shouldered by health care facilities, assisted living centers and nursing homes. The services also can be less expensive than these other facilities.

According to the most recently available data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.9 million adult patients received home health care at some point in 2013. Federal data indicate that number is expected to grow in the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of home health aides and personal care aides to grow 41 percent from 2016 to 2026, outpacing average growth for other occupations.

Home health aides are distinct from visiting registered nurses or licensed practical nurses in that they are not required to have specialized education beyond a high school degree, are not licensed as nurses, and in many cases do not provide assistance with medical tasks. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.”

Home health care services are typically run through agencies. The most recently available CDC data estimates that 12,400 such agencies were operating in the U.S. in 2014. According to this analysis, 80 percent of these agencies were for profit, while 15 percent were non-profit and 5 percent were government owned.

Despite the demand for home health aides, the compensation remains low – median pay in 2017 was $11.12 an hour. By contrast, other jobs in the healthcare field that typically require the same entry-level education (high school diploma or equivalent), such as optician and pharmacy technician pay more — $17.43 and $15.26 per hour, respectively. Assisting the disabled, elderly and chronically ill with the everyday tasks of living — the work of home health care — can be physically and emotionally taxing. Turnover is common in the field, which can impact the quality of care received by clients.

This research roundup looks at home health care from a variety of angles. It identifies geographic and demographic trends in the availability and provision of home health care in the United States. Featured research also points to reasons why the industry experiences such rapid churn and to potential solutions, from new training programs to on-the-job exercise programs that benefit clients and workers alike.

Trends in home health care:

“National Trends and Geographic Variation in Availability of Home Health Care: 2002-2015”
Wang, Yun; et al. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, July 2017.

 

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