Grand Rapids, Michigan —
Nancy Klomparens, 84, lives alone in a Grand Rapids apartment and clings to her independence despite the injuries she has sustained.
She said she’s fractured her back five times in the last four years as a result of her poor eyesight.
She relies on a home care worker once a week to drive her to the grocery store and assist her with shopping and other chores.
But, like thousands of other needy Michigan seniors, she’s had to deal with a revolving door of home health aides, including a couple who abruptly left.
“It’s a disaster.
“I rely on that assistance,” said Klomparens, a mother of two who has been living alone for decades.
According to advocates for the elderly and those with disabilities, a long-standing shortage of home health care workers has erupted into a crisis in Michigan amid the coronavirus pandemic, as aides are hesitant to risk their health for jobs paying $12 to $15 an hour.
Michigan, which ranks 14th in the country in terms of the percentage of residents over the age of 65, attempted to address the issue last year by raising wages for state-subsidized home care workers by $2 per hour as part of a budget agreement that expires at the end of February.
More:Innovation and bonuses may aid in reducing Michigan’s home health care shortage.
However, pay is only one aspect of the problem.
Even before COVID-19, nurses aides were regarded as having one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, with a higher rate of workplace injuries than coal miners or truck drivers due to the lifting required to assist the elderly.
And advocates warn that the problem will only worsen as the state’s population ages and more health workers leave the field.