Michigan is facing a home health aide shortage.
These are the workers that come into a person's home who needs help due to a medical condition. They cook, shop and help with personal hygiene.
Advocates say the shortage comes down to money. They say one in four health aides in Michigan live in poverty because the pay is so low.
Chesaning's Scott Docken relies on his home health aide Jim Clark. He became a quadriplegic 14 years ago."They're my hands and my feet," he says. The healthcare advocacy group, PHI, says in a few years, Michigan will be short 28,000 home health aides. It says the median pay in our state $10.59. Advocates say they deserve more. Clark agrees."I'm supposed to drive 15 miles here, leave, drive 20 miles work an hour a and a half for my next guy, leave there and drive an hour for my next guy," he says. Docken's mom says she wishes workers like Clark were valued more. "If anybody had a neighbor or family member that was in the position of Scott, they would understand more," she says. We're told home health aides are paid by different agencies. For example, medicaid pays one rate, medicare another, the VA pays something else. Colin Blumenthal from Helping Hands Nursing Service in Grand Blanc agrees that these workers needs more.His company connects workers with jobs. Blumenthal says their pay is at the whim of government and insurance companies, but says they incentivize workers in other ways when possible. This includes help moving up the career ladder. He worries the shortage could cause other problems. "It makes me afraid people are trying to lower their standard, that they're just trying to put a warm body in their home," he says. Blumenthal says part of the shortage is also due to the low unemployment rate. He says workers can be pickier about jobs and often choose jobs with higher pay. But the question is, why is the pay so low for workers that so many rely on.
"That's the million dollar question," Blumenthal says.
"The government definitely has to come off with better ideas and better pay for these aides," Docken says.
The state says its aware of the problem and is studying the issue. But advocates say most of the funding is based off the federal government.
Blumenthal says if you or a loved one needs a health aide, do your research. These positions do not require a license so extra diligence is necessary. He says the one benefit of the shortage is that if workers need a job - they should be able to find one.