Academic serving up 'train wreck' forecast

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Workforce experts estimate a national shortage of 151,000 paid direct care workers by 2030, as well as a shortage of 3.8 million unpaid family caregivers.
Workforce experts estimate a national shortage of 151,000 paid direct care workers by 2030, as well as a shortage of 3.8 million unpaid family caregivers.

Low wages and a lack of respect for direct care workers are putting the long-term care industry on a dangerous path to worker shortages, a professor warned recently.

“It's an absolute train wreck waiting to happen,” Paul Osterman, Ph.D., a professor of human resources and management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Reuters in August.

These “conservative estimates” are based on no changes to immigration policy and family members helping their same amount. 

The biggest problem for attracting talent is salary, experts believe. The median income in 2015 was $20,000 for a CNA and $15,000 for a home care aide, according to U.S. Census tracking.

“It's difficult for wages to rise because they are set bureaucratically according to Medicaid reimbursement rates,” Osterman said. 

However, even without raising wages, employers can create a better culture of respect for direct care workers, he advised. They also can restructure roles to add responsibilities, plus offer a track for advancement within a healthcare system.