By Nicole Hehl
The U.S. population is aging, creating somewhat of a senior boom as those born during the post-World War II Baby Boom, between 1946 and 1964, are reaching mid-’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
As a popular state to retire, Arizona is heavily impacted by the demographic shift.
In just six years, we can expect to see as many people older than 65 as younger than 15 living in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Arizona Healthy Aging Plan.
The Arizona Department of Health Services also predicts the number of Arizonans 65 and older to increase 174% between 2010 and 2050 – from 883,014 to 2,422,186 – and the 85 and older population to quadruple its size.
This dynamic growth brings challenges, including a shrinking workforce and increasing health care demands, both of which are already being felt by in-home care agencies.
“We’ve got a real problem,” says Bob Roth, managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, Arizona’s oldest and independently owned in-home care agency. “We’ve got to figure out how to care for this population.”
In-home care is a personal passion for Roth, who took on the role of caregiver for his mother when he just 22. In 1994, Roth and his brothers started Cypress HomeCare Solutions, using their insights and challenges from being a family caregiver to help other people’s parents age at home.
“I want to be able to help older adults stay at home; that’s my goal,” Roth sys. “Pretty soon, I’m going to be in those shoes. I want to make this place a better place for aging, and right now it’s more challenging than it’s ever been.”
Roth notes that unlike generations before, many Baby Boomers don’t have adult children or family to take care of them as their health needs increase, creating a demand for in-home care services that hasn’t been seen before.
The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, an organization that studies the home health industry and tracks direct caregivers, estimates there will be nearly 95,000 personal care aide job openings in Arizona by 2026.
For Arizona’s local, independent home care agencies, it’s a struggle to keep up with that rapid demand.
To address the workforce challenges, Cypress HomeCare Solutions, along with Placita In Home Care, serving Tucson and Southern Arizona, and No Place Like Home Care, serving Chandler and surrounding areas, are partnering with Honor Technology Inc. to improve workforce retention.
Since its start in 2015, the San Francisco-based company has made big strides in addressing the home care workforce dilemma. Its Honor Care Network offers locally owned businesses a workforce delivery system that handles caregiver recruiting and compensation and incorporates technology, standardized training and best practices in customer service.
“By partnering with Cypress HomeCare Solutions and other best-in-class agencies, we’re creating a national network of local home care agencies committed to improving workforce retention and delivering transparent, quality care,” says Honor Nita Sommers, president of Honor Technology Inc. “Together, we’re solving the challenge of helping more elders thrive in our communities.”
“I’ve watched this company evolve and really create a system that is better than what I have,” Roth adds. “For us to make this leap is very proactive. Honor was coming to this market. As hard as it is to recruit caregivers, it was going to get a lot harder, because they do a great job. They’re more desirable.”
For home care workers, that desirability comes in the form of better pay and benefits, including a 401(k), reduced travel to clients, and better matching of caregivers to patients’ needs. That adds up to a better work environment and encourages job longevity.
For the in-home care agencies, joining the Honor Care Network provides a larger pool of better-quality candidates, access to better technology, and a reduced burden of recruitment and retention allowing them to focus on delivering the best care to clients.
While Roth is cautiously optimistic about the future and the impact that organizations like Honor Care Network can have on the home care workforce, he concedes that rising wages in fast food and retail industries create additional competition and challenges for the home care workforce.
“Health care is our future, and this is the ground floor to learning about the health care industry” Roth says. “I think one of the solutions, more than anything, is to really elevate this position, really be able to demonstrate to our communities that being a caregiver is an incredibly rewarding experience.”