Every morning for the last seven years, Fanie Occeas has been preparing Prescola Beneby a hearty weekday breakfast grits and sardines or sausage and eggs. Every morning, too, Occeas bathes the 87-year-old, tidies up her Arcola Lakes house and settles her in a wheelchair.
Their banter is easy, their movements together familiar and sure. Shes like a daughter to me, says Beneby.
Adds Occeas, Ive learned a lot from her.
Occeas is a certified nursing assistant who looks in on Beneby and three other homebound seniors during her rounds for her employer, United HomeCare. Beneby is a mother of six, bedridden because of rheumatoid arthritis. The two are part of a trend that experts say will become very common as the nations population ages and more seniors choose to stay at home instead of moving to nursing facilities.
The number of people age 65 and older will double to 81 million in the next 30 years and the demand for nonmedical home-based help for daily activities such as dressing, bathing and meal preparation is expected to soar. In the past four years alone, there has been a 40 percent growth in U.S. senior care agencies, according to Caregiverlist.com, a company that connects seniors and professional caregivers with care options. More than 4,000 caregivers are hired monthly.
In a company index of the elder-care job market, Miami ranks 18th among the top 20 metro areas for home healthcare employment, followed by Orlando and the Tampa/Sarasota area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of personal care aides is expected to grow by 70 percent in this decade and home health aides by 69 percent, making them the first and second fastest-growing occupations.
We have agencies telling us, We need this kind of worker, we need that kind, says Julie Northcutt, Caregiverlist.com founder and CEO. Even in this economy, weve had a huge demand. Agencies are growing as fast as they can.
Finding and training workers for these jobs will become increasingly important as the baby boomer generation, 78 million strong, ages. Various studies also have found that at-home care is actually more effective and less expensive than similar care in a nursing home or hospital.
But will there be enough workers to fill the need?
Theres no question in my mind that we have totally, totally, underestimated what we will need in terms of medical professionals to service us, says Nancy Stein, founder of Seniority Matters, a network of pre-screened resources for South Florida seniors. Were in for a rude awakening.
Stein says she gets many calls from boomers trying to plan for their parents care and they dont have a clue what to do. We really need to start thinking of whats important to us, where we want to live, what we can afford as we age. Its so important to plan ahead.
She says she hopes boomers experiences with their parents will prompt them to do just that.
Jacqueline Torre, a human resource executive for United HomeCare, hires between two and five home health aides a week to add to its current 650-member roster. It hosts an open application period every Wednesday and provides free in-service training every year. Still, it has a waiting list that tops 1,000 prospective clients.