There is a new federal regulation that expands eligibility for overtime pay and changes minimum wage requirements for certain classifications of employees. This affects caregivers by increasing the minimum amount of money they can make. This seems wonderful on its face. Yet it has ramifications for elderly people whose families' finances are already stretched.
Currently, many families use a single caregiver to provide the bulk of the care for an elderly loved one. This helps the elderly patient because he or she becomes used to being around a single person. Perhaps more importantly, this arrangement allows the caregiver to become intimately familiar with the elderly person's needs and preferences. It usually results in better care.
By changing the federal labor laws to bring caregivers under the overtime eligibility requirements, the government forces families of elderly patients to make some tough choices. They may choose to pay significantly more for the same arrangement they currently enjoy. A second choice is to avoid overtime issues by utilizing two or three caregivers instead of one.
Some families, of course, will be in the financial position to simply pay the higher wages. They may not, however, be able to justify the added expense of paying overtime. As a result, many families will turn to multiple caregivers to cover the same number of hours that a single one used to cover so that no caregiver is eligible for overtime pay. Thus, the financial cost to the families will remain close to the same.
This arrangement will impact the level of care that the elderly person receives, however. Instead of having one caregiver who focuses on and knows the elderly person, there will be several caregivers. Each will only know the elderly person on a part-time basis.
What's more, because most caregivers cannot survive on a part-time job, it's likely that many caregivers will still work the same number of hours per week. The difference is they will work for multiple agencies or individuals on a part time basis. This means that caregivers will have their attention divided between several patients. The chances of making a mistake by, for example, confusing the medication needs of one patient with another one, increase.
Some families will probably make the move to using multiple caregivers. Others, though, will likely simply try to make do with fewer caregiver hours in the home. This will decrease the service provided to the elderly patient and will result in a diminished level of care.
The new overtime regulations could increase the numbers of seniors who move into nursing homes. The federal programs that assist financially challenged people with nursing home fees may suddenly seem like a viable option. Indeed, this may seem more desirable than trying to figure out ways around the new overtime classifications. It may also seem safer to concerned family members who must cut down on hours of home care. The result may be that some elderly people who could otherwise survive outside of a nursing home with home care will find themselves placed in institutions.
Caregivers, some of whom put in long hours providing care for the same elderly patient, may suddenly find that they are unable to work more than 40 hours per week. This is because employers will need to limit their hours to avoid paying over time. The result will almost certainly be a reduction in the number of hours that a given caregiver can (legally) work. While there will certainly be some caregivers who maintain their current workload by being paid "under the table" in cash, this is a less than desirable solution.
Caregivers who find their hours being cut may have to seek supplemental employment. For example, a caregiver who currently works 60 hours a week will suddenly be working less than 40 hours per week. To offset this steep decline in income, many will be forced to seek a second job. Although they may work with another caregiving agency to make up the difference, this is inconvenient. Even though the end result will be the same number of hours worked, there will be added stress. Having to move between jobs and patients throughout a week eats away at caregivers' time and energy.
Because of these and other effects of the new overtime regulation, caregivers and elderly people alike will face new challenges. The change in the law may have some positive effects in the long run. However, in the short run, it creates a number of difficult issues.
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Lee, Mara. (October 11, 2015). A New Pay Rule Threatens to Throw Home-Care Industry into Turmoil. Hartford Courant. Available at http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-home-health-workers-live-in-pay-rules-20151008-story.html. Last visited September 20, 2016.
Smith, Peggie R. (2007-2008). The Publicization of Home-Based Care Work in State Labor Law. 92 Minn. L. Rev. 1390. Available at http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/mnlr92&div=42&id=&page=, last visited September 20, 2016.