By Sabine Schoenbach
- The vast majority of long-term care happens at home and in the community. Direct care workers such as home health aides and unpaid caregivers, usually family members, are the foundation of the long-term services and supports system. Unfortunately, caregiving – both paid and unpaid – has long been undervalued. The lack of supportive workplace policies and protections for caregivers undermines the economic security of those who provide care.
- Four statewide trends create urgency in addressing workplace standards of both the direct care workforce and family caregivers: the state is rapidly aging; the availability of potential family caregivers is declining; low-wage jobs are on the rise; and state investments in crucial supports for North Carolina’s older adults and their caregivers are shrinking.
- The direct care workforce is one of the lowest paid occupations in the state, with a median wage of $9.05 per hour for home health aides. The financial impact of family caregiving is also well documented. The majority of direct care workers and the majority of low-income workers in North Carolina – many of whom provide informal care – lack access to earned paid sick days.
- In addition to adequately funding support services for elderly residents and their caregivers and assuring access to health care for all, policymakers have the opportunity to address the “care gap” in a responsible manner by creating good jobs. Increasing wages and benefits for direct-care workers – and all workers in low-wage industries – is a critical step in meeting the care gap. All caregivers need good jobs to provide quality care.