The Uncertain Future of Home Care

By Bill Shockley, CSA

“Nearly 2 million home health care workers across the country… are eligible for federal minimum wage and overtime protections, according to a unanimous ruling Friday by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.” — Boston Globe,

August 22, 2015.

In a ruling that raised concerns throughout the Home Care industry, the court held that the U.S. Department of Labor had the right to redesignate Home Care workers from their previously held status as ‘companion services’ to full rights for minimum wage and overtime pay.

That’s just one of the issues besetting the industry, whose growth has been driven in recent years by franchise companies.

Home Care has grown by leaps and bounds due to an aging population and a desire by many seniors to stay home. Some Home Care is more appropriately, and often legally, called Home Health Care, or Medical Home Care and is for work performed largely by professionals such as nurses which can be paid by Medicare and Medicaid.

But most Home Care workers are employed by private agencies that do not provide medical care, but only companionship services and personal assistance services such as bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and shopping. These agencies, whose employees may have no medical training, are strictly private pay, and therein lies the problem. As wages and benefits increases, those costs must be passed on to the seniors, who may already be paying $20 per hour or more.

Another issue is licensing and certification. In many states, there is none for non-medical Home Care agencies, but that is changing. Costs are bound to rise as Home Care agencies have to obtain and maintain licenses and certifications not only for themselves, but for their workers.

Hiring qualified workers is a problem, too. While Home Care has been growing rapidly, the pool of qualified workers has not. At pay rates of $7 to $11 per hour, depending on where you live, for many of them working at fast food restaurants is a lot easier and more enjoyable than changing adult diapers.

So before you rush out to hire a Home Care Agency, think about the future and whether it is the best solution, or whether Assisted Living might be a better answer.

Bill Shockley is COO of Ask-Carol Franchising LLC. Started by Carol Shockley in 2009, Ask-Carol places seniors in assisted living facilities.

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