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How Can Minnesota Address the Caregiver Shortage?

Home care services are becoming increasingly important in Minnesota. The Minnesota State Demographic Center projects that one in five Minnesotans will be 65 years or older by 2030 and outnumber the 18 and under population by 2035.

Additionally, enrollment in the state Medical Assistance program (Minnesota’s version of Medicaid) is projected to increase 85% to 71,500.

The aging population is expanding the need for services and caregivers who enable older adults and people with disabilities to live independently at home.

Minnesota’s Two Types of Caregivers

Two official occupations comprise the home care workforce in Minnesota:

PCAs help people maintain independence in their homes and communities by assisting with activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, mobility and bathing.

These services are provided through personal care agencies, which are not required to have a state license but must be enrolled as Minnesota Health Care Programs providers. Individual PCAs must pass a criminal background check and pass an online training course.

Home health aides (HHAs) provide medically oriented tasks at a person’s place of residence to maintain health or aid in the treatment of illness, such as assisting in the administration of certain medications or supporting ambulation and exercise.

These services are provided through Medicare-certified home health agencies, while individual HHAs must complete a certified training program and pass a competency test and demonstration.

The Shortage of Caregivers and How to Address It

Homecare workers are Minnesota’s largest employee group. According to PHI, a homecare policy and research institute, Minnesota has more than 93,000 home care workers, including personal care aides and home health aides.

But the state will need thousands more caregivers to meet demand in the coming years. Existing workforce and service gaps could leave many Minnesotans without the care they need to live independently at home.

Adjusted for inflation, hourly wages for home care workers have declined over the last decade, and more than 75% of Minnesota’s home care workers report working less than full-time.

A demanding job, low pay and a lack of professional advancement opportunities contribute to an unsustainably high turnover rate within the home care workforce, ranging from 40% to 60% nationwide.

Home care providers in Minnesota’s rural communities face even more obstacles. For small communities, a decades-long exodus of young workers has weakened the ability to meet aging residents’ caregiving needs.

Despite the many issues facing the homecare workforce, Minnesota is well-positioned to address current workforce shortages. The state leads the nation in the effectiveness of its long-term services and supports, according to AARP’s Long-Term Services and Supports Scorecard.

To meet the state’s rising home care needs through improved recruitment and retention, Minnesota’s long-term care providers will require:

  • Higher wages;
  • Comprehensive benefits;
  • Full-time hours;
  • Competency-based training; and
  • Skilled, supportive supervision.