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Are Caregiver Co-ops the Solution to the Caregiver Shortage?

A caregiver shortage could soon be upon us, if it isn’t already. Paul Osterman, a professor human resources and management at MIT, and author of the book “Who Will Care For Us – Long-Term Care And The Long-Term Workforce” suggests the caregiving shortage could reach critical levels.

He estimates that by 2030 there could be a shortage of up to 151,000 directly paid care workers and 3.8 million unpaid family caregivers¹.

Osterman isn’t alone in his concerns – many media outlets report a growing caregiver shortage, paired with a growing need for caregivers.

national caregiver month

Let’s take a look at the challenges facing the caregiving profession – and a promising new solution that is starting to gain traction.

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Caregivers Are A Vital Part Of Society

The role of senior caregivers is a vital one. They are on hand to help older adults with a wide range of vital life tasks that they could not carry out themselves.

These tasks can be anything from personal care to housekeeping and cooking, attending appointments with them, or making sure they take their medication.

Without the help of professional caregivers, many older adults would not be able to stay in their own homes, or have any measure of independent living. Caregivers allow them to stay out of nursing homes and other care facilities, and live in their own home longer.

Caregiving Is A Tough Gig

Professional caregiving is sadly undervalued by society at large. The patience, dedication and skill that go into caregiving are frequently overlooked.

Caregiving can be a frustrating and thankless job. How can caregiving co-ops help?
Caregiving can be frustrating! (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / lisafx

Workers are poorly paid – it is rare for caregivers to make a livable wage – and many find themselves working long, challenging hours, yet barely being able to lift themselves out of poverty.

Caregivers are typically women, women of color, or immigrants. Being drawn from populations that frequently battle poor working conditions, low wages, and discrimination from employers, makes caregiving challenging for anyone who chooses the caregiving profession.

Enter Caregiving Co-ops

Could there be a solution to the impending caregiver crisis?

It seems the answer might be yes: Caregiver co-operatives are starting to pop up around the nation, and might just provide the solutions the caregiving profession needs.

Caregiving co-ops are very different from the traditional caregiving agency model, being employee owned and operated. This offers many benefits to both the caregivers and their clients.

Related: Becoming a Better Caregiver [Video]

Benefits Of Caregiving Co-Ops

Caregiving co-ops offer many benefits both to workers and to their clients.

For workers, being in a co-op gives them a strong voice. They have part ownership of the co-op and the chance to get involved in everyday operations and decision making processes.

For caregivers who have struggled with a lack of respect and care from employers, this is a powerful change.

Being part of such a project is fulfilling and helps build a strong sense of community. Caregiving co-ops could, eventually, provide people who are looking for a second career or a way to get a living wage, a chance to provide care while also making enough to provide for themselves and their families.

Co-ops benefit clients, too. Caregivers who feel respected, and who have a voice and a sense of stability, provide better care. Remove the stress of disrespectful employers and untenable working conditions, and caregivers are better able to focus on their clients.

Co-Ops Are Already Getting A Tryout

Although they’re not commonplace yet, caregiving co-ops are getting some traction. The AARP Foundation, which exists to help struggling seniors with areas such as housing, have funded several caregiving co-ops throughout the country.

These worker-owned and worker-controlled agencies typically offer not only better pay but also better benefits, more in-depth training, and more stability to caregivers.

Independent caregiver co-ops are springing up, too. Peninsula Homecare Cooperative was started in February 2016 in Port Townsend, Washington. Peninsula Homecare received grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cooperative Development Foundation.

The dedicated group of self-employed caregivers who founded the co-op embraced the model because it gave them more stability and allowed them to provide better care for seniors in their community.

Caregiver co-ops are still in their infancy, but they have the potential to provide caregivers with a more stable income, a stronger voice, and more impetus to stay in the caring profession. Those benefits are passed directly to those they care for.

Can caregiver co-ops stop the impending caregiver crisis? It’s impossible to stay at this stage, but one thing is for sure – they might just be an important part of the solution.

1 Reuters- The future of U.S. caregiving: High demand, scarce workers

3 Comments

  1. Hello, I worked in Home Care for 9 years as a caregiver, payroll clerk and office manager. In every role I saw the tension & stress caregivers had to go through because of inconsistent hours. This problem was not because of the number of clients, because there were many -or the lack caregivers, because again we had available staff. The problem was not having the ability to match a client & caregiver together (before placement with the agency) so both client & caregiver needs were being met. I’ve set out to change things. Please see below a copy of the About Us page at CMReferral.com. I’m hoping that with this tool everyone will have a better outcome. About Us CM Referral is a national home care provider (caregiver) database. It’s a known fact that care managers, discharge coordinators and family members spend hours and sometimes days in search of a caregiver. A preferred or approved list of providers is commonly used when completing this task. And therein lies the problem ~ it’s just a list with no link to individual caregiver data. Designed as a 1st step tool, we’re hoping to bridge this gap by matching client/caregiver profiles, reducing the time it takes in finding a caregiver – to a few moments. How it works~ Providers approve & post a profile for each available caregiver. These profiles consists of availability, skill set & other caregiver data.  Specifications from clients & caregivers are compared during a database search and when a match is found, the home care provider’s information is displayed. Matching client/caregiver profile specifications before placement – will increase the number of long term relationships, while reducing the need for re-assignments. Please spread the word that CM Referral is bridging the gap between clients and their caregivers.
    1. Came upon your website. I am interested in working part time as a caregiver. I’m 66 and marries. Want to help someone in my area..Live Oak or Jasper Fl. Any suggestions?
  2. I love this! Caregivers are so important. My mother has a wonderful caregiver who makes life much better for all of us and I can’t imagine life without her. If there is a shortage, this sounds like a great solution to empower employees and encourage people to want to be caregivers. Thanks for informing me about caregiver co-ops!

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