The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that since January 2020, roughly 400,000 nursing home and assisted living staff have quit due to feeling overworked since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the desperate need for more caregivers continues.
Caregiver Alita Toro is a registered nurse of more than 20 years and has worked for the same certified home health agency in Sullivan County for 10 years.
“I love doing the home care. It's always challenging; it's exciting,” Toro said. “You get to go to people's homes; you get to see a side of them that you normally wouldn't see in the hospital.”
Toro says she has many patients that depend on her.
“To live a normal life, that is always the plan for us and what we love to see,” said Toro.
Toro said there is a downfall to her job: being short staffed.
“If you don't have enough staffing, it's challenging, because then you have more patients you have to see, and our job, we always want to make sure we get the best quality care for all our patients,” said Toro.
Toro is just one of thousands of overworked caregivers in New York. According to the state Office of the Aging, a caregiver is defined by the state as family, friend or other person who helps someone else with their daily life. An estimated 4.1 million caregivers in New York provide 2.68 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $32 billion annually, the office reports.
There are about 700,000 at-home care jobs projected each year; the median pay for a professional at home caregiver is $29,000 per year as of 2021.
According to the state Department of Health, in the U.S. today, one in six employees spends on average more than 20 hours a week providing care for a loved one.
Toro says she understands that many patients are not able to leave their homes and don’t have the means for transportation.
“A lot of our patients can't get to the doctors; they can't get to the hospital. They don't drive. They live in a rural area,” Toro said. “So all they have is us. We're the only people that they come in contact with, sometimes for weeks at a time. So our job is not only to provide medical care, but we're also there for the emotional support.”