WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — Throughout the course of the pandemic, several industries have reported labor shortages, including the home care industry.
Officials say the pandemic has only heightened the need.
"I love to care for individuals,” said Lakeisha Gibson, Agape of Appleton Inc. Assistant Program Manager.
At-home care workers are the caregivers responsible for making sure people with disabilities or who are aging, receive the best possible care.
Some of those duties can involve assistance in eating, dressing, and bathing.
Gibson has been working in the home care industry for about nine years.
She says she has a passion for helping others.
In 2019, she was recognized as caregiver of the year.
"Everyone is different and they have a special place in my heart," Gibson said.
The problem Wisconsin is facing is that there aren't enough workers like her.
Officials say a lot of it has to do with the pay.
"Those workers generally across Wisconsin aren't making more than maybe $11, $12 an hour," said Lisa Pugh, the Arc Wisconsin Director. "Wisconsin is really in a direct care workforce crisis.”
The Arc Wisconsin works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She also has a daughter with disabilities and knows firsthand how these vacancies are hurting families.
"What that means for families like mine is my daughter might go without care. A lot of families like mine reduce their work hours, sometimes quit their job entirely and it's really becoming such a crisis. Families are stressed out," Pugh said.
We also spoke with the president of a union that represents health care workers in Wisconsin who says more needs to be done to make sure these workers have a livable wage.
"It's really scary and its not provided with health care insurance, it's not provided with sick days off and they're essential frontline workers,” said Pat Raes, Registered Nurse and President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.
Officials say with a fast growing aging population, there’s going to be soon a need for even more caregivers.
According to AARP, right now approximately 45 million Americans are age 65 or older.
But by 2030, that number will reach 73 million americans.
At that point, one in five Americans will be older than 65.
And by 2034, the United States will for the first time ever be a country composed of more older adults than of children.
The U.S. Census bureau projects there will be 77 million people age 65 and over compared to 76.5 million under the age of 18.