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Home Healthcare Jobs Abound as Unemployment Rate Climbs

Home Healthcare

By 2050, the United Nations estimates that the global population over the age of 65 will triple to a total of 426 million.

As the ongoing pandemic has forced more than 775,000 Americans each week to file unemployment claims since November, industries that provide support to aging adults are looking to capitalize on a unique opportunity to fill a plethora of open positions in home healthcare. 

“The demand is huge right now,” Mark McPherson, general manager of the Toledo Home Instead office, said. “We have seen that the demand has been trending towards this direction for a really long time, but COVID has just accelerated that because we’re seeing more and more people are not wanting to go into assisted living communities or nursing homes. They’d rather stay at home.”

Home Instead, which has its global headquarters in Omaha, is one of many home healthcare offices in the Toledo area that dispatches professional caregivers to patients’ homes to provide a number of services, such as assisting with personal care, preparing meals, running errands, and providing companionship. 

Nursing students Marisa Legeza, left, and Mikaela Honan learn to work on a patient during an intro to simulation class at Mercy College of Ohio in Toledo on Feb. 5, 2021. 

According to Mr. McPherson, while a rise in unemployment on its face seems like it might correspond with a rise in caregiver applications, the agency has instead seen themselves competing in job markets that a year ago they wouldn’t have considered competition. 

“We’re at a point where we’re literally competing with anyone and everyone there is,” Mr. McPherson said. 

Dave Tidrick, the human resources coordinator for Interim Healthcare of Toledo, noted that in addition to the high demand for caregivers, many current caregivers are opting to leave the field. 

“We had some caregivers that didn’t want to be going into people’s homes for fear of catching COVID,” he said. 

Mr. Tidrick added that hospitals and medical centers are also able to offer higher pay and larger sign-on bonuses than agencies like Interim Healthcare to encourage much-needed caregivers to come and work for them.  

“Our numbers are down and trying to hire in home health during a pandemic like this, you just can’t get people to come in the door. They’re not interested,” Mr. Tidrick said. 

Interim Healthcare of Toledo is actively pursuing RNs, LPNs, and state-tested nurse aides, a qualification that can take less than a month to earn, Mr. Tidrick noted. 

Interim Healthcare currently employs about 90 to 95 caregivers. To meet their demand, Mr. Tidrick said they could take on about 25 to 30 more. 

Home Instead currently employs about 80 caregivers and maintains about 60 clients. To meet the current need, they’d have to hire 15 to 20 more.

“We phrase ourselves as always hiring, because we could get a call tomorrow for someone who is looking for 24-hour care and that’s a lot of staff right there that’s going to be tied up,” Justin McPherson, the recruitment and engagement coordinator for Home Instead and Mr. McPherson’s younger brother, said.

He added that the agency values personal drive over experience, but that they also consider personal experience, such as taking care of a loved one highly valuable. They do not require any specific qualifications and offer in-house training.

For clients, there is currently a waitlist of about 10 people, Home Instead’s general manager said. 

“We could probably take on everyone on the waitlist but we would be completely overwhelming our caregivers and would not be able to provide good, quality care. Then it’s a lose-lose situation,” Mr. McPherson said. 

All while the number of caregiver applicants remains low, the number of clients requesting home healthcare services is on the rise, the general manager pointed out. He said that in addition to new clients calling to request care, old clients are requesting more hours of care, as coronavirus-related precautions prevent them from visiting their loved ones. 

“We’ve been taking things very, very seriously and asking our caregivers to do the same,” Mr. McPherson said. “Anytime someone calls in, could be just a sore throat, we take them off for 10 days and offer for them to get COVID-tested. Because we work with such a vulnerable population, we don’t want to run the risk.”

Quarantining of caregivers, however, has only increased the demand on other employees at home healthcare agencies who need to provide care in their colleagues’ absences. 

Lucinda Kinnan, one of Home Instead’s caregivers, said she’s become accustomed to picking up extra shifts. On a daily basis, the work she does for her clients varies between assisting with breakfast, doing laundry, or helping with housekeeping to more involved aid, such as operating a Hoyer lift to transfer patients from their beds or helping them shower.

Despite the challenge of the work, she affectionately refers to her patients as “walking encyclopedias” and easily recounts the many times she’s formed personal relationships while on the job.

“You learn so much even in the short time that you’re with that person,” Ms. Kinnan said.

For 17 years, Ms. Kinnan worked as an educator. She opted to leave her job to become a caregiver full-time because she needed a change, she said. 

“They treat you like family,” Ms. Kinnan said of her clients. “And you treat them like they’re your grandmother, or mother, or grandfather, or uncle. You just take them in under your wing and they become a part of you.”

The pandemic has provided a unique challenge to Ms. Kinnan’s work, but her safety is not her first concern -— Home Instead provides plenty of PPE to its caregivers. The obstacles she’s found most challenging has been providing an emotional support system for clients who have been unable to see their families for months. 

For anyone considering becoming a caregiver, Ms. Kinnan urged that they consider the calling carefully.

“Look in your heart. Can you give this back? And if not, then it’s not for you. Look at it. Really look at it,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t change her job for the world.

Original article

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