A wide range of actions are needed to successfully address the aging services sector’s unrelenting and well-documented workforce challenges–and many of those actions must happen in Congress. That’s why LeadingAge, in cooperation with the Congressional 21st Century Long-Term Care Caucus, invited members to share their experiences with Hill staff last week in the Workforce Challenges and Solutions in Aging Services Congressional briefing. Not only did more than 50 congressional members, staff, and other thought leaders attend, but Representative Brian Steil of Wisconsin’s First Congressional District joined as a featured speaker and underscored the importance of building a strong long-term care workforce.
LeadingAge panelists painted a clear picture of how frontline workers provide a lifeline for older adults in need of critical services and supports, whether transitioning out of the hospital or aging in their own homes. Without the resources to invest in and expand our workforce, aging services providers are having to cut services and close units. Long-term and far-reaching consequences of this difficult situation will reach across the acute and post-acute care sectors, resulting in potential delays in patient care and discharge planning, prolonged hospital stays, increased hospital backlogs, and a higher likelihood of hospital readmissions.
“I hope one day I won’t have to receive another phone call from a stranger begging and pleading for us to take their loved one because the care they are receiving elsewhere is inadequate, or they can no longer care for them at home. Despite caring for so many, it’s those phone calls that will leave me defeated. Having elderly parents of my own, I can imagine being that person begging for that quality of care that they very much deserve. It’s heart-wrenching. I know I could do so much more if I had the staff.”Lynda Bogdala, Administrator, Brookside Care Center from LeadingAge Wisconsin
“Last year, our staff drove over a million miles to take care of patients within the Metro, State, and Georgia. And I will say, our workforce challenges is a pressure every minute of the day. We have great staff, but we don’t have enough … We work with all the health systems in Atlanta and the metro area, and they look to us to discharge their highest sickest patients home in all lines of our business. And we can’t do that.” Dorothy Davis, President & CEO, Visiting Nurse Health System from LeadingAge Georgia
“Unfortunately a very common thing that we see our seniors facing is having to make decisions between food and medication–simple things that we take for granted become almost luxury items, for which food shouldn’t be the case. Members have become extremely reliant on the service coordinators for finding food assistance and vaccine clinics during the pandemic … these members are not going to have anybody to turn to, because those service coordinators, there’s just simply not funding to keep them there.” Brenda Carney, National Service Coordinator Manager, CSI Support and Development from LeadingAge Michigan
“We need there to be some immigration reform so that we can bring in the skilled health care workers from overseas easier. Just the other day, there was an announcement of retrogression, which means that the wait was pushed backward in time for those wishing to come to the United States to work and help here. So if someone has applied after March of 2020, they won’t get a visa right now … it takes three years right now for nurses to come to the United States and their time is expanding. We may get back to a situation where it’s taking 10 years for a nurse to come to the United States. That was true about five years ago.” Rose Policarpio, CEO, United Methodist Healthcare Recruitment (UMHR) from LeadingAge Illinois.
LeadingAge’s Ruth Katz, senior vice president of policy and advocacy, shared key bills and policies that can help provide solutions to the strong themes that emerged throughout the briefing: the need to invest in our long-term care workforce by building a domestic pipeline of workers, the need to supplement our domestic workforce with a robust pipeline of foreign-born workers, and the need to invest more funding into our aging services workforce across the board.
As always, the work continues. As the population continues to age, the demands on the long-term care system continue to grow. By taking proactive steps to address the workforce crisis, we can ensure that older adults receive the high-quality and compassionate care they deserve from aging services providers. The “Workforce Challenges and Solutions in Aging Services” congressional briefing was part of the ongoing LeadingAge Aging Services Workforce Now campaign. We will continue to share Member Voices and take every opportunity to help our policymakers understand the workforce crisis in aging services.
LeadingAge extends a special thanks to the co-chairs of the 21st Century Long-Term Care Caucus, Representatives Ann McLAne Kuster (D-NH), Bryan Steil (R-WI), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI).