Many seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible, sometimes requiring outside care to help make this possible. In September of 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills into law that will impact both providers and consumers of in-home senior care services. Caregivers, or personal attendants in the wording of the new laws, provide assistance in daily living activities to hundreds of thousands of California seniors. Historically, in-home caregivers were exempt from overtime regulations but effective Jan. 1, 2014, Assembly Bill 241, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, requires that they be paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked in excess of nine hours in any workday and 45 hours in a workweek.
The impact of AB 241 will vary depending on the number of hours the caregiver works. For hourly care, providers will try to limit the length of caregiver’s shifts to nine hours to avoid paying overtime. If the client needs assistance more than nine hours a day, they may have to be supported by multiple caregivers to not incur additional charges. The result might be seen as a “lose-lose” situation; the worker earns lower wages and the senior will have to be willing to work with multiple helpers.
A client that requires round-the-clock or live-in care, presents additional challenges. Under AB 241, the live-in caregiver would be paid nine hours of regular time and seven hours of time-and-a-half in a 24-hour period. The remaining eight hours is designated as sleep time, which is exempt from pay (and not billed to the client). The exception is an interruption of the sleep time resulting in overtime charges for the actual time spent assisting the client during the sleep time. To absorb the overtime charges, the provider may increase their fees. Depending on the magnitude of the increase, seniors may begin to seek alternatives such as assisted living facilities, which will require that they leave their home.
Until July 1, 2014, the California minimum wage is $8 per hour, higher that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour worked. On July 1, 2014, Assembly Bill 10 increases the minimum wage in California to $9 per hour and, on Jan. 1, 2016, the California minimum wage will increase to $10 per hour worked. AB 10 attempts to close the gap between wages and the cost of living in California. Successful implementation will require creative approaches to managing costs by home care providers to deliver consistent, high-quality care to clients.
Yet another recent law covers licensure. On Jan. 1, 2017, Assembly Bill 1217, the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act, takes effect. This bill involves licensure of home care agencies and specifies the requirements to obtain a license. For agencies like mine, Senior Helpers of San Mateo, the impact is minimal. These requirements have always been an integral part of our operation. Agencies will be required to carry professional liability insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance. The owner will be required to pass a background examination and the state will maintain a registry of registered home care aides and home care aide applicants. Home care organizations will be required to ensure that home care aides are cleared on the home care aide registry before placing the individual in direct contact with the client. Finally, a home care organization licensee shall ensure that their home care aides complete a minimum of five hours of training prior to providing services. There will be substantial costs for home care agencies associated with compliance to the licensure program. However, in my opinion, the benefits in consumer protection far outweigh the added costs.
California has enacted legislation designed to better the quality of life for those working as home care aides while attempting to ensure that seniors are assured quality care from well-trained caregivers provided by reputable home care agencies. Clearly, there will be costs associated with these programs for both providers and consumers. However, providing a system that supports the health and safety of our senior population is well worth the cost of implementation.
Steve Zimmerman is the owner of Senior Helpers of San Mateo, part of a national franchise providing in-home, non-medical care for seniors. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.