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5 ideas to improve direct care work in Iowa

Carol and Donald Loesch hold hands as they are photographed at the Meth-Wick community in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jul
Carol and Donald Loesch hold hands as they are photographed at the Meth-Wick community in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Siegel helps out with Carol's daily tasks in the couple's apartment. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Here are five ideas from the nonprofit advocacy group Iowa CareGivers on helping improve the jobs and lives of direct care workers in Iowa:

1. Boost wages

Direct care workers in Iowa earn a median hourly wage of $13.80, or $28,700 a year, according to the Iowa 2019 Wage and Benefit Survey. Twenty-eight percent of direct care workers surveyed are working a second job.

2. Improve benefits

Ten percent of Iowa direct care workers have no health insurance, more than double the 4 percent rate of Iowa’s total uninsured population, and 23 percent receive Medicaid or the Iowa Wellness Plan. Iowa should consider a low-cost state insurance plan for direct care and child care workers who have low-paying, high-risk jobs.

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3. Increase diversity

As Iowa becomes more diverse, we need more caregivers who reflect diversity of race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation and religion so they can be more responsive to patient needs. In the 2019 survey, 91 percent of direct care workers were women and 78 percent were white.

4. Establish a direct care worker database

The state should develop a database of direct care workers and their training, certification, credentials, continuing education and experience. This would ensure portability of this information and help the state identify trends that could help with recruitment, retention and cost savings.

5. Modify work assignments

Create opportunities for older Iowans and people with disabilities to work in the direct care field by modifying work assignments to reduce physical demands.

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Source: 2019 Wage & Benefit Survey, Iowa CareGivers

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