As White House Conference on Aging Begins, Minnesota Home Care Workers Traveling to Washington D.C to Voice Concerns on ‘Care Crisis’

Workers to Join National Discussion on Improving Long Term Care as New Report Highlights Growing Challenges

St. Paul – Just weeks after their historic first contract went into effect, two Minnesota home care workers will travel to Washington D.C. as part of a select group to discuss the best ways to improve long term care for the aging population across America with members of Congress, including Rep. Keith Ellison. Home care workers will be a part of the conversation around the White House Conference on Aging, speaking at the conference and engaging remotely in Washington and in select cities across the country. Studies show that low pay among home care workers, which averages $17,000 each year, leads to alarmingly high turnover, jeopardizes critical services and strains the home care system as more and more Americans rely on and choose home care instead of expensive long term care facilities.

Age_love_rs“I’m honored to go to Washington and meet other home care workers and decision makers to talk about ways to improve services for seniors and for all home care workers, especially just weeks after our first home care worker union contract went into effect,” said Jan Wirpel, a home care worker from Minneapolis who was also a member of the union’s bargaining team. “For too long we have had to fight against the notion that home care work isn’t ‘real work.’ The low wages and lack of benefits have caused pain and frustrations for both home care workers and the people we serve, and these issues will only get worse as our population ages and our care gap grows. We fought hard for our new contract, winning paid time off, an increased wage floor and a training fund, but we still have a lot of work to do to get our industry where it needs to be. I’m excited to have the chance to represent Minnesota home care workers and clients at this conference, and look forward to bringing back ideas on how we will continue to improve the home care industry.”

Home care workers like Jan are part of the growing Fight for $15 movement, which includes workers from home care, fast food, airports and other industries. Thousands of home care workers from across the country who took part in the largest-ever mobilization of underpaid workers in the history of the United States on April 15. Home care workers, who joined the Fight for $15 in a handful of cities last year, have now spread their call for better wages to two dozen cities from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. In Massachusetts just last month, home care workers were the first to win a $15 an hour wage.

On Thursday home care workers and seniors released findings on the ‘Care Crisis’ that show the demand from seniors who want home care is fast out-pacing the number of home care workers in every state across the country. The report finds that in every state there is a gap between the number of seniors in need and the number of available home care workers. Nationally, there are 9 (potential) consumers for every 1 home care worker.

The White House Conference on Aging is a once-a-decade event that brings together thought-leaders, legislators and health providers from across the country to discuss issues important to seniors, their caregivers and families across the country. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.

A recent study showed Washington, DC, has the largest gap between rich and poor residents in 35 years, and according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), paying workers better wages is essential to meeting the long term needs of both the caregiving workforce and our aging population. The NELP report suggests that paying workers $15 an hour will not only bring working families out of poverty, but also stabilize and grow a workforce that is desperately needed to match the growing number of seniors and people with disabilities across the country who want home care.

“America is experiencing a home care crisis, and unless home care workers receive higher pay, we won’t be able to meet the long term care needs of either caregivers or our aging population,” said Caitlin Connolly, Home Care Fair Pay Campaign Coordinator at the National Employment Law Project. “If we want to make sure aging adults and people with disabilities get the care services and supports they needed, then we must start with making home care jobs sustainable.”

According to a report by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, 10,000 people turn 65 every day and the vast majority of these seniors prefer to live in their own homes. And according to a study by the AARP, there are not enough home care workers entering and staying in the field to match the growing number of baby boomers who want in home long term care. The report found that in 2010, there were seven potential caregivers aged 45-64 for every person 80 years or older. By 2030 this ration will drop to 4:1 and again to 3:1 in 2050. Decent wages were cited as the key solution to stabilizing the workforce.

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 60,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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