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Primary caregivers for disabled folks are ‘spread really thin’ due to a shortage of home health workers

Female nurse in a cozy room with paintings and flowers helping to take medicine for senior man in a wheelchair
Mykyta Ivanov
Home health aides help disabled people with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, as well as giving medication and making meals.

On an average morning, it takes Ron Faerber two to three hours to get his 28-year-old daughter, Hannah, ready for the day.

She’s severely disabled, so he helps her with everything from changing her clothes, to eating and taking medications.

His wife, Kari, has multiple sclerosis and also needs help around the house.

On top of that, Faerber also works full-time.

“Just like everybody else, we have all our bills to pay, dishes to clean, laundry to do,” Faerber said. “I don't get the weekends off. My job is 24 hours, seven days a week.”

He said up until about two months ago, he had a home health aide to lend an extra pair of hands.

But the shortage of professional caregivers is taking a toll.

“You just do what you have to do, and you just get it done,” he said. “I feel like I’m spread really thin.”

 Kari (left), Hannah and Ron Faerber
Ron Faerber
Kari (left), Hannah and Ron Faerber. Ron is a full-time caregiver for them.

Amuia Alford, assistant administrator for Stonebridge Home Care, said one unique factor in the labor shortage is they’re competing with many other providers for certified nursing assistants.

“That's not just a position that only home care needs,” Alford said. “CNAs are needed in the hospitals. CNAs are needed in skilled nursing facilities. It's kind of an incredibly important job.”

The Disabled Rights Action Committee — where Faerber is a board member — is calling for better wages for home health aides. The group said aides are needed because they help people with disabilities live their lives with “dignity and respect.”

Alford said they are looking at compensation. Right now, he said pay ranges from $14 to $17 an hour in the Salt Lake area and $11 to $15 in rural parts of the state.

He said Stonebridge is considering ways to be more competitive.

“We are not passive about the problem,” he said. “It is at the top of my mind when I'm going to bed and when I'm waking up on how we can provide better opportunities for our caregivers and how we can take better care of our people.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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