Advocates for Iowans with disabilities are sounding the alarm over what they describe as a caregiver crisis, pleading with lawmakers to give the issue more priority, so these individuals are not pushed from their homes because of the scarcity of providers.
Tucker Cassidy, a person with quadriplegia from Waterloo, said the workforce shortage has been building for years, but in the past month and a half, it has become much worse.
He noted it is difficult for the agency he works with to send over enough caregivers to help with his daily routine. Stuck in bed more than he is used to, Cassidy admitted the shortage leaves him worried about his future.
Advocates say the crisis is largely driven by low wages for caregivers. According to Indeed, the average starting pay for in-home caregivers in Iowa is around $13 an hour.
Lutheran Services in Iowa estimates it has been forced to reduce its client base by 350 in recent years. The shortage comes as Iowa touts a budget surplus of $1.24 billion.
Matt Grillot of DeWitt has used a wheelchair most of his life due to a spinal injury. He has been in his own house for the past 18 years, but he has struggled to hire a caregiver in recent months, forcing him to consider alternatives he would rather avoid.
But he said he faces barriers in moving to those places, adding to his stress in planning his care.
Cody Lewton, director of services for people with disabilities at Lutheran Services in Iowa, said they are down roughly 250 caregivers, citing the struggle to pay them enough money.
The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council said it is also concerned about the crisis, adding it will be the group’s number one legislative priority next session.