ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — Tompkins County is trying to hire home health aides to serve isolated rural residents. Care from a home health aide can make it possible for older adults to continue living at home, and access to that care is limited for rural elders.
The county has already twice renewed the online job postings for the two part-time home health aide positions. Lisa Monroe, director of the Tompkins County Office for the Aging, said the jobs come with benefits and the pay is higher than what many private home health agencies offer.
But Monroe said the county hasn’t gotten many applicants yet. She said there’s a lot of demand for home health aides and few candidates who are actively seeking jobs.
Meanwhile, she said her office has a waiting list of older adults who need care.
In the past, Monroe said her office has tried contracting with private home health agencies to provide care to those on the waiting list. But that hasn’t worked so well for more rural patients.
“Groton, Newfield, Slaterville — the outer edges — those rural areas are more difficult for us to have aides to serve,” Monroe said during her presentation to the Tompkins County Legislature last week.
Monroe said that’s because many home health aides don’t have access to a car.
That transportation issue means more older people in towns like Groton or Newfield end up in nursing homes, even if they are still fairly independent.
Monroe said the county’s aides would be able to use county vehicles to make their rounds to more far-flung patients. She hoped the higher pay and benefits would help attract potential workers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many home health jobs have demanding hours and pay low wages, which Monroe said could drive potential caregivers away from the profession.
“This is contributing to the severe crisis,” Monroe said. “Twenty-five percent of home care patients report they cannot find home care workers. We know it’s gonna keep going up if there’s not a livable wage for these [aides].”
Monroe said the two new county aides are only one part of the solution.
“That’s just going to be one little Band-Aid,” Monroe said. “We spend most of our time just providing a patchwork quilt of services to keep people in their homes.”
Monroe said she hoped to see minimum wage increases for home health aides included in the upcoming state budget.
The county is currently interviewing candidates for the two new positions. The job posting is not currently active, but Monroe said she encourages others to apply in case the county is able to expand the program.