As Pennsylvanians continue to age, the demand for qualified caregivers continues to increase.
According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the state ranks fourth in the number of rural elders, 65 and older, and the number is projected to increase by 51 percent by 2030. This increase will be driven by baby boomers, who, in 2030, will be 66 to 84 years old.
In 2030, 25 percent of rural Pennsylvania's population will be 65 years old and older.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Patricia Potter receives help with personal care at her Altoona home from Dona Fitzgerald, who works for Home Nursing Agency.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment of personal care aides is expected to grow by 70 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.
"The rate of aging adults is increasing faster than the economy, and talented caregivers are in great demand," said Theresa Zurilla, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Blair and Cambria counties.
Zurilla's office recently announced it expects to add 100 caregivers to its existing staff this year.
Others who provide home care services also plan to hire this year.
"We hire on an as-needed basis. We know we will be hiring a bunch," said Carolyn Burk, branch supervisor of Interim Healthcare, Duncansville.
Home Nursing Agency is advertising for 15 positions at the present time, said Nicole Fedeli-Turiano, director of legislative affairs and corporate communications.
Griswold Home Care Blair County and Private Care Resources Inc., aren't sure how many caregivers they will hire.
"We use independent contractors to provide caregivers, but we are always looking for people to interview. We will go with the flow. We have no specific numbers on how many we will need," said Joy Hoover, Griswold director.
"Business is growing at a rapid pace. We are close to tripling our number of hours over the past year. We continue to hire daily, and that will continue into the foreseeable future," said Ann Bender, owner, president and CEO of Private Care Resources Inc.
Good caregivers have certain characteristics.
"Give me a kind, caring and compassionate person, and I can teach them what they need to know to fill the job. If they don't have those qualities, they don't do well," Bender said. "Caregivers have to love the job. We can teach them what they need to know, but we can't teach them caring and compassion. They have to truly love helping people. Our caregivers are our most valued asset. They are our company."
Caregivers need great listening skills and need to be flexible and accommodating to what the patient or client needs.
"You try to find people who understand the dynamics the person or family is dealing with so you know when they need help. We provide a lot of specialized training for people who work with people who have Alzheimer's and similar conditions," Fedeli-Turiano said.
"They need to be trustworthy and dependable and have a love for the elderly and disabled. Those are the most important things. They have to get along with the clients. You have to love people. People skills are more important than technical skills. We are nonmedical," Hoover said.
Sometimes it is difficult to find caregivers who want to work in the home.
"A lot of people still think a facility is the only way to go. Home care is a very viable option. It helps people stay in their homes where they are very comfortable. A lot of people work in facilities, but don't know working for a home care agency is a viable option. They are comfortable in a facility because it is more traditional," Hoover said.
Sometimes older people make better caregivers.
Currently, about 30 percent of Home Instead Senior Care's employees are 60 and older.
"We aim to provide quality, compassionate care to our senior clients, and to do that, we need qualified, ambitious and caring individuals to serve as our caregivers," Zurilla said.
"Some of the older ones do better; they are better workers," Burk said.
Not only local people hire the caregivers.
"We have children who live in Texas and have us take care of mom and dad here. We call it long-distance care giving," Bender said.
Most caregivers work part time, but some work 40 hours or more a week.
"A lot of people want a part-time job to keep their skills up and make a little money. The majority of mine are part-time," Hoover said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.