The Atlantic: Who Will Care for America's Seniors?

By Alana Semuels

Being a home-health aide is a lonely, difficult job, and the pay is miserable. But the country needs to find millions more people to do it.

My grandfather broke his hip at age 87. At the time, he lived with my grandmother in western Massachusetts in a beautiful house they’d built themselves abutting a farm. At 88, she was as “with it” as someone decades her junior, and she was determined to help him continue to live at home, where he could listen to classical music in his sunny study, or gaze at the sheep that sometimes grazed outside his window.

He went to a nursing home for short-term rehab right after the accident, and it was nightmarish, she told me. He was trapped in a room with patients who would be there for the rest of their lives, which depressed him. Nurses gave him his medication on an erratic schedule, not necessarily prioritizing his health. My grandmother decided he would do better at home.

It didn’t seem like it would be too hard. They’d added a downstairs bedroom and bathroom a few years back, so he wouldn’t have to go up stairs. And she was still mobile, and could cook for him and spend time with him and set reminders on her iPad for when it was time for him to take his medication. She had family and friends nearby, who could spell her from caretaker duties from time to time. Plus, they had paid tens of thousands of dollars for long-term care insurance, which would pay for a home-care aide to come and help them when needed.

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