Oct 4, 2022 - Health

Caregiver shortage hits rural areas the hardest

A nurse wearing protective gloves holds the hand of a patient in palliative care.

Photo: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP via Getty Images

States in the Southeastern U.S. have the highest percentage of adults with conditions that interfere with daily activities like dressing or getting around — and the fewest personal care aids per capita to help them, according to a study in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: There's already a well-documented dearth in the provider workforce, but the findings show how a geographic mismatch is leaving needs unmet — particularly in rural areas.

The details: The study, led by the University of California, San Francisco, found the number of adults with self-care disabilities were highest in the South, as well as parts of Maine, the Pacific Northwest, and New Mexico, ranging from 3.9% to 8.7% across the U.S.

  • Meanwhile, the states with the lowest number of personal care aids per 1,000 adults with a self-care disability were mostly southern, including Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kentucky.

What they're saying: The authors listed possible remedies including increasing wages and benefits, improving training and career development options, adding flexibility to state Medicaid waiver programs to pay family caregivers for providing personal care services and providing incentives and compensation for travel.

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