|By Randy Tucker, Dayton Daily News, Ohio|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The region already has more than 100 agencies providing such services, and that number is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade as the industry adds nearly 1 million new jobs, according to projections from
But the fast-growing industry has raised concerns about a largely unregulated workforce serving the state's most vulnerable residents, many of whom are unaware that common prerequisites for many other jobs -- including background checks, training and continuing education -- are not required for most non-medical home care aides in
Providers of home health services through the
With little oversight, the potential for abuse and exploitation of elderly clients who may have no nearby relatives to check on them or who may be in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimers will grow with the industry, said Bernard Dalichau, owner of Lavender Home Care Solutions in
"These people can be easily taken advantage of," Dalichau said. "The amount of unnoticed and unreported abuse already going on out there is pretty bad. Without regulation, there aren't going to be any checks and balances for the quality of care. As the business continues to grow, companies are going to come in and cut corners, and the only person who's going to suffer is the elderly client."
Dalichau said he requires his home health workers to obtain a minimum level of training, including taking CPR and first-aid classes. He also conducts background checks and mandatory drug testing, among other conditions of employment. But such regulation is left up to each individual company.
"There are good companies out there, and there are bad companies," Dalichau said. "The good companies know who they are, and the bad ones know who they are. But the consumer doesn't know because they don't exactly know what the level of quality of care should be because there are no standards or regulations."
While many business owners object to regulations because of the cost of compliance, Dalichau said regulation would likely benefit his industry by expanding the consumer base.
Private insurers would be more likely to cover home health services if they were regulated and recommended by the state, he said.
"If we get regulated, insurance companies may look at it and say this is a needed part of care for our senior population, and it's cheaper to do it with home care than any other way," Dalichau said.
Commercial coverage of home health services would bring more companies into the market competing for workers, which would put pressure on all providers to raise wages in one of the most demanding but lowest-paid professions in which most most agencies pay no more than
Higher pay might keep more quality caregivers in an emotionally and physically difficult profession that is known for its high turnover rate, said
"I kind of knew from an early age what I wanted to do, and I think I've been pretty good at it," Hughes said. "I don't have any plans to change jobs now, but I lost a lot of money going to an agency. I wasn't living well before, but now I'm just surviving.
"I love my job I'm not in it for the money, but I have to pay bills, too," Hughes said. "Everybody wants to make sure they get qualify care for their grandfathers and grandmothers, but nobody wants to pay the caregiver the kind of money to ensure that quality."
Changes are coming that may make the industry more appealing and stable.
Beginning next year, home health care workers employed by agencies or other third parties will be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law guarantees the national minimum wage, currently at
In the meantime, advocates for the elderly encourage consumers to do their research before hiring an agency to provide home health services and remain vigilant once they begin providing care.
"We don't really get a lot of complaints about individual abuse or shoddy care by home health aides," said
(c)2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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