Caregiving is growing as a career alternative

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010
— When Mary Link was looking for work last year, she searched for positions that would offer job security.

The 52-year-old Janesville woman found one in the form of an online ad seeking caregivers at Home Instead Senior Care Janesville.

“I know I’ll be employed for as long as I want to be with this company,’’ said Link, whose previous employment was ended when the manufacturing plant she worked at announced employee cutbacks.

Link’s caregiving involves everything from a bit of housekeeping and companionship to cooking, reminding people to take their medications and running errands, she said.

Mary Kay Ellis, 57, of Janesville, a co-worker of Link’s, switched to a caregiving career after 31 years as a production supervisor at a local plant. She’s been working steadily for the past year.

“Actually, I’ve had the opportunity to work even more than I have,” she said. “There’s always going to be a need (for caregivers).”

She’s right. The pool of family caregivers is dwindling.

At the same time, the number of people age 65 and older is expected to increase at a rate of 2.3 percent. Unfortunately, the number of family members available to care for them is projected to only increase 0.8 percent, according to the Center on Aging Society.

As a result, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increase in personal and home care aides jobs, forecasting it to be the second fastest-growing job group in the country during the next decade.

Recent research even indicates that demand for these jobs will outpace supply in a big way.

That doesn’t surprise Michelle Kyhn, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, which operates offices in Janesville and Whitewater. Kyhn’s business, which serves 50 clients in Rock, Walworth and Jefferson counties, saw a 50 percent bump from 2008 to 2009.

“The number of our clients over the past year has been fairly level mainly due to the economy, but it has picked up over the last two to three months,’’ she said.

Although Kyhn expects business to slowly increase over the next several years, she predicts a big increase for services over the five to 10 years after that.

“People are living longer, the elderly population is increasing and more families are providing care to aging parents,’’ she said.

That’s true. According to the National Caregivers Association, one in eight Americans is older than 65 and those 85 and older make up the fastest growing population in America.

Within 20 years, the number of Americans older than 65 will rise to one in five. And next year, Baby Boomers—which make up one-fourth of the U.S. population—will turn 65 and start to wrestle with issues related to their own declining capacity and independence, the association said.

As recently as 2006, 59 percent of the adult population already was or was expecting to be a family caregiver, according to study conducted by MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Vicki DeGarmo-Jackson and her brother both work full time, so they hired Home Instead Senior Care caregivers to help with their mother. Vera DeGarmo, 93, of Janesville suffers from myriad of health issues, including dementia.

“It’s truly peace of mind for us,’’ DeGarmo-Jackson said.

Without the service, DeGarmo-Jackson said it would be impossible for her mother to continue living alone in her apartment.

“She would be in a nursing home,’’ DeGarmo-Jackson said, noting this type of placement isn’t always an option.

Between 1985 and 1995, the number of older people who stayed overnight in nursing homes fell by 8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s why the need for caregiving services—such as companionship home helper, personal services, respite care, Alzheimer’s Care and short-term recovery—will continue to grow, Kyhn said.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when so many people continue to search for jobs while the local and national unemployment rates remain stubbornly high.

Caregiving facts

-- Forty-eight percent of caregivers reported using at least one of seven outside services, including transportation, home-delivered meals and respite to supplement their caregiving.

-- Long-term care is experiencing a substantial annual growth rate. By 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predict an 83 percent increase in government spending alone. By 2040, the long-term care market is projected to grow by 250 percent.

-- By the year 2020, 12 million older Americans will require long-term care services.

-- After age 65, an American has more than a 70 percent chance of needing help with the activities of daily living like dressing, bathing and using the bathroom. —Source: SeniorCare Marketplace

Last updated: 2:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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