Obama Makes In Home Care for Seniors More Expensive

New Overtime Law for In Home Senior Care in the United States

There are many families that depend on professional home care in the United States, and they will see major changes in the future due to new federal rules announced by President Obama and the Department of Labor, which reports to him.  The new overtime rules, which the President promised organized labor for supporting him, will make care more expensive for seniors and life more difficult for caregivers because they impose significant new overtime wage requirements on the in home care industry.

In the past, the home care industry has not been required to follow the overtime wage rules with which employees of most industries are so familiar. While it might sound unfair at first, that overtime exemption actually makes a lot of sense because of the nature of in home care work. Experts believe that the new rules, which hold caregiving companies to the same requirements as those in other industries, will have negative consequences for caregivers and their elderly clients.

A Unique Industry

In most industries, workers go to a central workplace, clock in, work, and then clock out again when they go home. In contrast to that, most in home caregivers have a very different work day.  Very often, their time spent with clients is a mixture of time spent doing actual work tasks and also time spent doing little because their client is asleep or watching TV or otherwise occupied.

In effect, the caregiver is “on standby” much of the time and can do personal things such as read books, use their laptop computer, and more.  Under the rules that existed before President Obama changed things, caregivers were paid for every hour they were required to stay with the client, but they were not paid an overtime premium because they were not really “on duty” the entire time and could do personal things as long as they were present if the client needed something or had an emergency.

Negative Impact On Caregivers’ Work Schedules

Under President Obama’s new rules, caregivers will have to be paid premium overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.  This means that home care companies will make sure that they never schedule caregivers to work more than 40 hours per week.  In fact, some companies will adopt policies to never schedule caregivers for some lower maximum, such as 30 or 35 hours, just to make sure that they don’t have to pay the overtime premiums when the unavoidable occasional schedule surprises occur.

Concerns Voiced by Home Care in San Diego County

Tim Colling, the Administrator of A Servant’s Heart Care Solutions, further clarifies what the changes will mean for his company’s clients: “Many seniors are used to having a single caregiver. Now, they will probably have multiple caregivers so that the company does not incur overtime pay for any individual caregivers.”

“This will increase complication and is likely to raise fees, as employers will encounter higher administrative costs in making sure that the overtime limits are not exceeded. The change is bad for caregivers, too.  That’s because caregivers will have their hours with their primary home care employer company reduced; because of that, that they will have to look for more work elsewhere with a second or third company just to make ends meet”, he said.

Impact on State, County and Local Governments

The new federal rules also apply to state, county and local programs that provide caregiving services to the poor who cannot pay for their own care.  This will result in declines in the quality of care for the clients and declines in quality of life for the caregivers who participate in these programs, just as it does for clients and caregivers who work with regular home care companies.

The Big Winners: Labor Unions and Democrats

So who wins as a result of President Obama’s new law, since seniors and caregivers lose?  The answer is pretty obvious:   (1)  labor unions, for whom this has been a major goal for a long time, and (2) the Democrats, who traditionally receive the majority of their financial support from the unions, and therefore go along with most of the things that labor unions ask for.

Big Changes Ahead

While it will take a lot of adjustment and creative thinking, home care companies in the United States are committed to doing what it takes to continue providing excellent care to their clients at the best prices possible. At A Servant’s Heart Care Solutions, we still believe that living at home is the best solution for many seniors, and we look forward to working with them and their families to make it possible, and with our wonderful caregivers to optimize the quality of their work lives.


Tim Colling
Tim Colling

Tim Colling is the founder and President of A Servant's Heart In-Home Care, which provided in-home caregiving services in San Diego County, and also of A Servant's Heart Geriatric Care Management, which provided
professional geriatric care management services and long term care placement services in San Diego County. Tim has more than 30 years of experience in management in a variety of industries. He held a Certified Care Manager credential from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. Tim is also a Certified Public Accountant (retired), and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from California State University at San Diego. In addition to writing blog posts here for the Servant’s Heart blog, Tim also is a regular contributor to HealthLine.com and to FamilyAffaires.com as well as blogs of other eldercare services provider companies. Finally, Tim is also the president of A Servant's Heart Web Design and Marketing, which provides home care marketing as well as website design and online marketing for those who serve the elderly and their families.

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