Home Care Workers

Home care workers help elderly and disabled people with daily tasks like bathing and dressing, and perform some medical duties – and do so at a fraction of the cost of a nursing home or other long-term care facility. They also allow patients to stay in their homes and communities and maintain some of their independence.

But they are among the lowest-paid workers in the health care industry. They are compensated at much lower rates than similar aide positions.

The following data on home care workers was compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a General Accounting Office review of the health care workforce.

  • 35% of home care workers make minimum wage. Because home health care workers fall under a “companionship exemption” to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, they are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime compensation, upheld by a 2007 Supreme Court decision.
  • 18.8% of home care workers live below the poverty line vs. 10.5% for all home health aides.
  • 15% of home care workers are eligible for food stamps vs. 5.5% for all home health care aides.
  • 32.1% of home care workers do not have health benefits or health insurance.
  • $9.62 is the Median hourly wage of a home care worker.  This is fully 1/3 less than pharmacy aids make, and about half of what massage therapists make.  and even though home care workers do many of the same tasks that occupational therapy assistants do, home care workers make approximately 1/3 their hourly wage.
  • $19,750 is the Median annual income wage, the lowest of 15 health care aide jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics groups together.

Home caregivers often work odd hours and long days and spend a lot of time on the road. Helping the elderly or physically disabled includes heavy lifting and other demanding physical activities, and can take an emotional toll on workers, too.

As baby boomers continue to age, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the number of home care workers to increase by almost half by 2016.   But even as the demand for their services increases, these workers remain among the lowest-paid in the health care field. The average home care worker earned just $9.62 per hour in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, far less than similar positions like occupational therapy assistants or nursing aides.

One in 10 home health workers is eligible for Medicaid and almost one-fifth live below the poverty line, a 2006 University of California at San Francisco review of federal data found.  Plus, extremely low pay and tough conditions cause high turnover rates for home care workers – more than 30 percent annually, according to some studies. A more stable workforce would mean that an employer of home health care workers could spend less money recruiting and training workers, and more money actually compensating workers.

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