Who’s Who in Today’s Assisted Living/Nursing Home Workforce

The assisted living and direct care workforce is evolving. A recent study identifies important demographic shifts that may help guide recruitment efforts.

Using data from the 2014 American Community Survey, an annual survey that assesses occupation, education, housing, and other community information throughout the US, researchers examined characteristics for the direct care workforce for assisted living, nursing homes, and hospitals. This includes nursing aides, attendants, and others who provide medical or personal care services, as well as personal care aides who only provide nonmedical services, such as housekeeping and meal preparation.

Not surprisingly, the average direct care worker across industries tend to be female (87%), completed high school (35%) or some college (41%), and was born in the US (75%). More than half of direct care workers (54%) are non-white and/or Hispanic, and almost a quarter (23%) are ages 25 to 34, while only 6% are age 65 and better. Ages were distributed fairly evenly across each age group below age 65, with only 6% age 65 or better.

However, a closer look at the demographics reveals some interesting trends. While only 16% of assisted living and 9% of nursing home direct care workers were male, results indicated that men have been joining this workforce at a much higher rate than women. This may support the idea that careers in assisted living—which require minimal prior training—appeal to men who would otherwise have worked manufacturing jobs, which are declining in availability.

Additionally, assisted living and nursing direct care workers consisted of more individuals age 34 and younger (49% and 46%, respectively), compared to home care workers (about 30%). This could mean assisted living is more appealing to younger individuals beginning their careers in aging services or for those working to finish earning a degree—43% of assisted living workers had completed some college, while about 35% of home care workers had the same.

Together, it appears careers in assisted living are becoming more appealing to men, as well as to younger and slightly more educated individuals, than other care sectors. As worker shortages become more common, it may be useful to understand how the direct care workforce is evolving.



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Kelly C, Morgan JC, Kemp CL, and Deichert J. A profile of the assisted living direct care workforce in the United States. Journal of Applied Gerontology (2020); 39(1): 16-27.

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