March 30 Web Event: Unsung Heroes: The Crucial Role – and Tenuous Circumstances – of Home Care Workers During the Pandemic

Even as the pandemic took a devastating toll on health care workers and older adults in the United States, many home care workers continued to report to work and provide vital care to vulnerable people despite the health risks to themselves and their own families.

KFF’s Kaiser Health News and The John A. Hartford Foundation held an interactive web event on March 30 to examine the crucial roles home care workers have played for families during the pandemic as well as the challenging economics of the industry for providers and consumers alike.

Obtaining coverage for home care services under Medicaid and Medicare is complex and limited, and long-term care insurance, when purchased, only partly offsets the cost. Home care workers, who are overwhelmingly women from communities of color, often make low wages with few or no benefits and have high turnover rates. The pandemic exposed home care workers and the people they care for to new risks that have exacerbated the challenge in matching care providers and recipients.

During the presidential campaign, President Biden proposed a $775 billion program to support caregiving, with more than half of that for senior care. The event included a discussion of what such a plan might address and other potential policy solutions.

KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal served as moderator of the event, intended to be an intimate conversation about the role of home health during the COVID-19 crisis. Rosenthal draws on personal experience: Her mother, Elaine, who died last year at age 96 of suspected Covid-19, spent the final months of her life in an assisted living community, where she was cared for by workers from Senior Helpers, a provider of in-home care.

Rani Snyder, Vice President, Program at The John A. Hartford Foundation made introductory remarks.

Panelists included:

  • Joanne Taylor, Owner, Senior Helpers Westchester (NY). Taylor began her career in home care after juggling the roles of caregiver, advocate and loved one for her own family members.
  • Clare McHugh, a Novelist and home health care client in Baltimore whose mother suffers from advanced dementia.
  • Karen Gilmore, a Home Care Worker for Ms. McHugh’s mother.
  • Robert Espinoza, Vice President of Policy at PHI, a New York-based nonprofit group that studies and implements ways to improve eldercare and disability services both for those who receive care and those who provide it.


KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation. KHN receives grant funding from The John A. Hartford Foundation, among other sources, and retains full editorial control over its journalism.

The John A. Hartford Foundation

The John A. Hartford Foundation, based in New York City, is a private, nonpartisan, national philanthropy dedicated to improving the care of older adults. The leader in the field of aging and health, the Foundation has three areas of emphasis: creating age-friendly health systems, supporting family caregivers, and improving serious illness and end-of-life care.

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.