Jan 24, 2023 - Business

"Critical shortage" complicates Tennessee elder care

Illustration of a nurse walking with an elderly man.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

America is coping with a shortage of home care workers, and high turnover among those who do take the job is making it even harder to line up care for loved ones, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • The median caregiver turnover rate was about 65% in 2021, the WSJ reported, citing data from Home Care Pulse, a company that provides training to home care agencies.

Why it matters: With an ever-growing number of aging baby boomers who need elder care, as well as the COVID-fueled reluctance to seek care in nursing homes, demand for home care is surging.

Zoom in: A report released last year by the state comptroller found that Tennessee "has a critical shortage of paid caregivers who help elderly and vulnerable adults continue to live in their homes rather than in nursing facilities."

  • In-home caregivers who help patients handle daily tasks, such as getting out of bed, bathing, dressing and preparing meals, "are generally paid hourly with few benefits."

State of play: The fiscal year 2023 budget put an additional $1.2 million in state funds toward increasing pay for those workers.

  • The budget also included a $9.7 million increase to a program that provides care.
  • The state increased reimbursement rates in 2022 for providers who offer home care.

The big picture: Davidson County and the state as a whole are getting progressively older. The population of Tennesseans 60 and older is expected to increase by more than 300,000 in the next decade, according to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.

  • That trend will only intensify the demand for care options.
  • 38% of adults 60 and older in Tennessee live with a disability, the commission reports.

By the numbers: In Tennessee, there will be 59,300 openings for home health and personal care aides in 2028, according to the advocacy and research group PHI.

  • That represents a 42% increase in openings over a decade.

What's next: The Commission on Aging and Disability plans to share details about new strategies for confronting shortages in coming months, according to a spokesperson.

Go deeper: Read Axios' deep dive on the challenges of caring for aging baby boomers.


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