As the baby boomers age, more and more families have to face the difficult but necessary decision of how to care for their elderly loved ones. Home health care aides are the fastest growing occupation in the country, estimated to increase by 70% by 2020, according to data by the U.S. Department of Labor. Elder abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins understand how trying this time can be for the whole family, and offer a brief outline of the benefits and disadvantages of each side.
Personal care aides, often referred to as PCAs, receive no benefits or regular hours, and often make less than $10 an hour. So why is it the nation’s fastest-growing occupation? The younger generation can see that the population is aging, and many of them, lacking in education or socioeconomic ability, recognize this as an opportunity. Additionally, Medicaid and other governmental agencies are asserting efforts to keep senior citizens out of nursing homes as much as possible.
Caregivers provide an array of services to allow the disabled and elderly to remain in their homes. This can include anything from daily chores and feeding to companionship and emotional comfort. They can either be self-employed, as independent contractors, or employed through a home-care company. An estimated 90% of PCAs are women, and many earn so little that they have to rely on some type of government assistance, such as food stamps or social services.
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Citing an article by Bloomberg, about half of PCAs in Vermont are paid by Medicaid, the federal program for the disabled and poor. The other half are paid via Medicare, private funds, or other health insurance programs. PCAs, whether independently contracted or employed through a healthcare agency, do pose their own risks to the elderly and disabled. Like any other service dependent on the goodwill of others, there is potential for significant abuse of power. When that abuse is against an elderly person, the results can be devastating.
In-Home Care vs. Skilled Nursing Facility
Nursing homes provide in-home assistance as well as chains of skilled nursing facilities. When large, for-profit corporations are responsible for thousands of nursing home residents in hundreds of different nursing homes throughout the country, the potential for wide-spread patient neglect is ominous. At nursing homes run by large chains, corporate executives are making the decisions for on-the-ground needs, which they are not attuned to or even, in most cases aware of.
This often leaves nursing homes understaffed, and the staff that remains is overworked or, in the worst cases, unqualified or untrained to be working with high-needs patients. Understaffed, overworked employees can be driven to do things they would not normally, such as neglect patients who need help, overmedicate in order to subdue them, or simply ignore the signs of pending danger. More malicious employees may turn to financial exploitation or blatant physical and emotional abuse.
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Of course, these are egregious examples of what can happen in a nursing home or while being cared for by an in-home aide. However, the problem is evident across the country, and goes largely uninvestigated and underreported. Our team of nursing home negligence attorneys encourages all families of elderly loved to keep watchful eye out for all warning signs of abuse and neglect. If abuse or neglect leads to a serious injury, contact our firm for a free legal consultation. We can help you receive justice and financial compensation for your medical bills and emotional distress.