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New Bill Targets Growing the Long-Term Caregiving Workforce

Tired female long-term care worker with face mask and gloves leans on wall.For older adults seeking long-term care services, finding the help they need can pose significant challenges. One major reason for this is a lack of available labor in this field. New bipartisan legislation may have an answer.

Nationwide Staffing Shortage

An ongoing, critical shortage of nursing home and assisted living workers – in part, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic – often means that fewer facilities are accepting new residents. Understaffing is also plaguing home health aide and personal care agencies. Staffing shortages can prove even more severe for seniors in rural areas.

As a result, seniors in need of long-term care may find themselves waiting months or years for services.

Workers in the senior living industry, home health care, and other direct care fields have their own obstacles. They often work for low hourly wages, lack important employee benefits, encounter a high level of on-the-job violence, and live below the poverty line. Burnout is high; the average nursing home in 2022 reported a turnover rate of more than 50 percent.

The lack of staff serving in this field may only worsen as 11,000 more Baby Boomers turn 65 with each passing day. You may assume you’ll be among the lucky ones who will not need long-term care. Yet data shows that most adults aged 65 or older – about 70 percent of them – will need this kind of assistance at some point in their later years.

The Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act

More than 20 U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to propose a bill seeking to remedy this shortage of long-term care staff nationwide. With the Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act, these lawmakers are looking to invest in the direct care labor force on numerous fronts.

“We need to invest in these workers,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), the bill’s co-sponsor, said in a news release. “Not just to ensure that caregiving can be a sustainable, lifelong career, but to improve the quality and availability of care for all who need it.”

Among the proposed bill’s provisions are the following:

  • Enforce laws governing long-term care employee wages and hours
  • Require employers to put into place plans to prevent workplace violence
  • Fund $100 billion in grants to states for improving recruitment, compensation, and retention of long-term care workers by:
    • Providing opportunities for career advancement and training in the direct care field
    • Conducting research to assess and report on long-term care workers’ well-being
    • Developing training standards for professionals in this field
    • Creating programs focused on improving mental health for direct care workers

Dozens of organizations, including the National Coalition on Aging, Justice in Aging, and the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) have endorsed the bill.

“We know that building a competent and stable workforce is a key lynchpin to the success of the Long-Term Supports and Services and the millions of Americans who rely on it,” Joe Macbeth, NADSP’s CEO and president, said in support of the bill.

However, not everyone is on board. “We don’t need the federal government forcing a one-size-fits-all approach,” U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-ID) said at a committee hearing in April.

Read the proposed bill in full.