Proposed repeal could change live-in care
Currently, daily live-in senior care has been exempt from over-time pay under the companionship exemption within the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A new proposal by the Obama administration to repeal this exemption would make live-in caregivers who care for seniors during the day and sleep under the same roof overnight qualify for overtime pay. While it sounds fair in theory, this repeal could have unintended consequences to the home-care industry and change live-in care as we know it.
If a client of Senior Helpers has dementia or Alzheimer's and is in need of 24-hour, in-home care, the family is currently allowed to pay caregivers a flat rate. If the companion exemption is repealed, overtime rules will apply. As a result, the cost of care would nearly triple, and many families would no longer be able to afford in-home care as an option for their loved ones. Most home care providers are small businesses with limited resources. Eliminating the companionship exemption would reduce the availability of care to seniors and increase the costs of service delivery with no corresponding increase from third-party payers, such as Medicaid.
Additionally, the repeal of the companion exemption could have a negative effect on the continuity of care for seniors, which is something that is extremely important for those dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia. Many of our clients and their families prefer having the same caregiver over time to help reduce confusion. However, if overtime is mandated upon the repeal of the caregiver exemption, companies like Senior Helpers could be forced to cut back on the hours that their caregivers can work which would result in multiple caregivers caring for the same person.
The final decision on whether or not this exemption will be repealed will be announced on May 1.
Peter Ross is the CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers, a national chain of in-home senior caregiver services.