The staffing crisis in home care

NationBuilder r1

Dear Paov,

With our Seniors' Care Accountability Campaign Launch coming up in less than one week, I wanted to share a story from a member who works as a Community Health Worker (CHW), offering home care and home support to older adults living at home.

We'll be sharing more stories from seniors, family members, and workers at the Campaign Launch next Wednesday, June 22 from 2:00-3:30pm. If you haven't already, click here to register to this virtual meeting.

Our member has asked that we keep her name, employer, and location anonymous, so I'll call her Krista.

"The biggest part of my job as a shop steward these days is talking people out of quitting, to be honest," Krista says. "That should scare every one of us who loves a senior in this province."

As a shop steward, Krista hears from other CHWs on a regular basis about their struggle to continue in their job. She knows first hand how bad the staffing crisis is getting in home care, as more... and more of her peers experience burnout or simply can't afford to keep doing the job they chose.

Seniors are waiting too long to access home care in BC. Even when they get off the waitlist, the quality of care they receive can be frustrating. Too few or missed appointments, rushed visits, strict limits on what care workers can and cannot do, inconsistencies in who is providing care, and not enough time to build genuine relationships are often top complaints.

What these issues have in common is that they are all a result of a shortage of CHWs to do the work. Why is it so hard to keep and recruit CHWs?

Put simply, it comes down to dignifiied wages and work conditions. "My son makes more money than me working in a cafe," Krista tells me. "If I was physically able to switch jobs, I would have joined him a long time ago." With rising costs of living, it's no wonder so many CHWs are finding they can't afford to keep their job.

Work conditions also need a serious upgrade. CHWs don't get paid adequately for the time they spend travelling between appointments, and they don't get paid when appointments get cancelled. Their appointments too often end up being so rushed that they don't have time to enjoy the best part of their job: connecting with the seniors they care for.

Krista recently had to tell a pregnant worker, with other kids at home and who recently lost her spouse, that she does not have guaranteed hours of work. "That really sucks. She just realized how precarious her employment income is and what working in the community health sector means for her family. I received a very halting and disappointed, 'so that's very different [from working in a long-term care facility] then.'"

That's right. CHWs have a larger scope of practice than care aides in long-term care facilities but they get paid less money and have much more precarious working conditions. They work alone and supervisors are not always available when needed. "And they wonder why we don't stay", Krista says.

BC needs to do better for these workers, who are predominantly women, persons of colour, and new immigrants. "The precarity of the work truly impacts folks' ability to support families and their quality of life."

We need a plan for BC to recruit and keep more CHWs, or we don't stand a chance to offer more and better home care so seniors can stay at home where they overwhelmingly want to be. That's why we're campaigning for higher wages and guaranteed hours for CHWs. Better working conditions means better home care for seniors.

Learn more about how you can join us in improving and expanding home care at next week's Seniors' Care Accountability Campaign Launch, so workers like Krista can keep doing the job they love and seniors can keep living at home as long as possible.

Click here to register for the launch.

In solidarity,

Audrey Guay, BC Health Coalition
http://www.bchealthcoalition.ca/

British Columbia Health Coalition · 3102 Main St, 302, Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, BC V5T 3G7, Canada
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