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Shortage of in-home healthcare workers sparks creative solution

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Posted at 4:21 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 16:21:51-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Alice McMenamin loves her home. It's a place she shares with her husband and animals.

McMenamin has been living with Multiple Sclerosis since the 1990s. While it may not have impacted her spirit, it has impacted her ability to take care of herself.

McMenamin was forced to seek help, but she feared losing the freedom she has at home.

"It was very difficult," she said

In-home healthcare is expensive and in short supply. Kaiser Health News reported that home healthcare agencies are turning away 40% of referrals because of a lack of workers.

The shortage is blamed on burnout, low wages and being recruited away by hospitals and other work with better pay and hours. The median wage for an in-home healthcare worker is approximately $10 an hour.

According to PHI, an industry research group, there are just over 2 million home healthcare workers, but the 65 and older population is expected to double by 2050, reaching nearly 90 million.

The increased demand and decreasing supply have led to some creative solutions in the private sector.

Trina Kaplow is one of the founders of Alice Care, a new app-based home care provider. Similar to a rideshare app, clients can schedule help with a task, like a bath, and licensed home care providers can choose to take the task.

"The difference is a traditional agency will require a four-hour minimum and often multiple times a week, which can be very expensive and excessive," said Kaplow.

"It's super flexible and I decide what I'm going to do in the moment," said Maria Vazquez, a CNA who works as a provider on the app.

In this great resignation mindset of an economy, where the employee has more power, Vazquez believes a flexible schedule in a traditionally unflexible career is a gamechanger.

"I have three children. I'm still taking classes. I'm applying to nursing school. Like my life is hectic. That's the reason I gravitated towards it," said Vazquez said.

Industries are changing, and healthcare is no different. As more creative solutions are being found to address worker shortages, people like McMenamin are grateful something is being done.

"Eventually one of my complications will get, get the better of me, but until then, it's not gonna win," she said.