Monday, August 19, 2019
The Washington Post offers a feature story on Maine's current care employment crisis for all industries serving frail elders, including nursing, home-care agencies, nursing homes, hospice programs and hospitals. Pointing to one town's dramatic needs, as the demographic "oldest" city in the "oldest" state in the nation, the article makes clear that the problems are likely coming to communities all across the country -- and certainly I have witnessed it first hand in Arizona.
With private help now bid up to $50 an hour, Janet and her two sisters have been forced to do what millions of families in a rapidly aging America have done: take up second, unpaid jobs caring full time for their mother.
“We do not know what to do. We do not know where to go. We are in such dire need of help,” said Flaherty, an insurance saleswoman.
Across Maine, families like the Flahertys are being hammered by two slow-moving demographic forces — the growth of the retirement population and a simultaneous decline in young workers — that have been exacerbated by a national worker shortage pushing up the cost of labor. The unemployment rate in Maine is 3.2 percent, below the national average of 3.7 percent.
The disconnect between Maine’s aging population and its need for young workers to care for that population is expected to be mirrored in states throughout the country over the coming decade, demographic experts say. And that’s especially true in states with populations with fewer immigrants, who are disproportionately represented in many occupations serving the elderly, statistics show.
In terms of statistics, one "crucial milestone" is the percentage of a population older than 65, the "super-aged" label. In Maine, one-fifth of the state's population is in that category, and by 2026, Maine is predicted to be joined by 15 other states, with another dozen reaching the same level by 2030.
Across the country, the number of seniors will grow by more than 40 million, approximately doubling between 2015 and 2050, while the population older than 85 will come close to tripling.
There are tough statistical realities to confront, including the tension between living wages for workers and affordability for families paying for care out-of-pocket. One of the subtle issues is how to manage pay. Employment agencies often retain at least half of the dollars charged for hourly care. Families who want or need to pay privately must make a very real decision on whether to pay "on" or "off" the books. For those paying on the books, it means learning to navigate systems for withholding proper amounts for taxes, any insurance and other deductions.