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In-home care workers about to be much in demand, lawmakers told

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Aging Baby Boomers will cause a 30 percent increase in demand for in-home care services over the next five years, requiring the services of about 20,000 in-home care providers in West Virginia, legislators learned Monday.

Phil Schenk, director of the West Virginia Partnership for Elder Living, said about 7,600 people are now employed by senior service agencies to provide in-home care. At least that many people, if not more, provide in-home care to seniors off the books, he said.

Agency in-home care providers in the state draw an average wage of $8.40 an hour, well below the national average -- and so low that 38 percent qualify for government assistance, Schenk said.

Those working off the books are paid as little as $3 an hour, but often receive room and board, Schenk told the legislative Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors and Long-Term Care.

Frequently, those caregivers are relatives of the senior citizen, he said, citing a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that found that 22 percent of high school drop-outs left school to care for family members.

Schenk said the Partnership for Elder Living wants the state to look at expanding vocational training programs for in-home care for senior citizens, both in secondary schools and county vocational-technical centers, to help meet the growing demand.

He said four voc-tech centers around the state will begin offering one-semester programs in in-home care training, beginning in January.

"I was amazed at the number of things these people have to be prepared to do, depending on the situation," he said of the in-home care providers.

He said in-home care could provide employment for high school graduates who otherwise are unable to find work, particularly in rural areas.

Individuals who had completed the certification course would probably be more likely to be hired by seniors seeking in-home care services.

Under legislation passed in the 2012 regular session, the Bureau of Senior Services is to begin publishing a register of in-home care providers, and Schenk said persons who completed the certification training could list that under their qualifications in the register.

Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, who was lead sponsor of the legislation mandating the in-home care register, endorsed the certification programs.

"I think it's a giant step in getting a well-trained workforce," he said.Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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