The Changing Policy Landscape of the Direct Care Workforce

Source: Robert Espinoza, Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 27 Issue 3, August 2017

As the largest growing occupation in the country, the direct care workforce represents a critical segment of the long-term services and supports field and the U.S. economy. Direct care workers are the paid frontline of long-term care, supporting millions of older people and people with disabilities in residential settings and in their homes and communities. The need for direct care will surge over the next few decades, as millions of people reach retirement age, and as people live longer with higher rates of chronic illness and functional limitations (Administration for Community Living, 2014).

Unfortunately, jobs in this sector are characterized by low wages and high turnover, which impairs both the livelihood of workers and the quality of care they provide. In the face of growing demand for long-term care, policymakers have increasingly begun strengthening this workforce, largely by increasing wages and benefits, promoting better training and advanced roles, collecting reliable data on the workforce, expanding access to long-term care, and supporting the relationship between paid and unpaid caregivers. States around the country are also steadily adopting laws that increase wages for workers and government funding for paid caregiving, create advanced roles and training opportunities for workers, establish working groups to study this workforce, and explore universal long-term care insurance options. Heightened attention on this sector, paired with a health framework that elevates the role of the worker in care delivery, can improve both the quality of jobs for workers and the quality of care for families nationwide…..