TUESDAY, July 11, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The United States may not be able to meet future demand for personal assistance workers to look after the elderly at home and keep them out of institutions, a new study warns.
"The aging of the population is going to trigger an increased demand for personal assistance services over the coming decades, but there is no guarantee that the workers will be there to provide these services," study lead author H. Stephen Kaye, professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a prepared statement.
"If nothing is done to reverse the trend, we could see precipitous declines in the personal assistant workforce, reverting to the low levels we haven't seen in years," he said.
Reporting in the July/August issue of the journal Health Affairs, Kaye's team noted that in recent years, there's been a large and steady increase in the number of personal assistance workers -- from 264,000 in 1989 to 894,000 in 2004.
However, cuts in Medicaid spending, low wages, poor health benefits, and high job turnover may lead to a decline in the ranks of these workers, the study said.
If conditions don't improve, it could become increasingly difficult to attract and retain skilled personal assistance workers, the researchers explained. That could be a huge problem, because the number of Americans requiring such services will more than double over the next few decades, from 13 million in 2000 to 27 million by 2050.
The American Academy of Home Care Physicians has more about home care.