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The link between caregivers and immigration policies

Pew Research Center estimates about 10,000 individuals are turning 65 each day. As the elderly population steadily grows, so does the need for long-term care and caregivers. However, there are concerns that there will not be enough direct care workers to meet the growing demand.

Long-term care has inadvertently found itself linked to the nation’s current immigration debate. Changes in immigration laws have the potential to affect older Americans and patients with illnesses or disabilities who rely on consistent care.

According to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), one out of four caregivers are immigrants. Around 34,600 individuals from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras work as home health aides, nursing assistants or in other caregiving jobs. They must either leave the United States or face deportation before their Temporary Protected Status becomes invalid at some point in the coming two years.

In an industry that is already struggling with a worker shortage, the worry is that tens of thousands of people could be left without care if immigrant caregivers are compelled to leave the country. Paul Osterman, a human resources professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, predicts there will be a shortage of 151,000 direct caregivers by 2030. That number is likely to rise if immigrant workers lose work permits or other industries entice direct care workers with higher wages.

“It’s impossible to imagine that the long-term care sector would survive without immigrants,” said PHI Vice President of Policy Robert Espinoza. “If you make it more difficult for people who are already documented to remain in the country, what you’re doing is you’re making it more difficult for families to find workers to care for their loved ones.”

Inevitably, a shortage of caregivers will cause the cost of care to increase. This will put even more financial pressure on individuals with the most challenging care needs.