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GSA Member Calls on Senate to Strengthen Long-Term Care Workforce

Speaking today at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Gerontological Society of America member Jasmine Travers, PhD, MHS, RN, AGPCNP-BC, told lawmakers that America’s long-term care system relies on a workforce — one that is often unseen and unheard — commonly known as direct care workers. And despite the critical role of this workforce, it faces significant challenges in recruitment, retention, and morale that threaten its sustainability.

Senators convened the hearing, titled “The Long-Term Care Workforce: Addressing Shortages and Improving the Profession,” to examine the challenges long-term care has faced regarding staffing and ways of better supporting those who work in the field.

“To improve long-term care access and care, we need to ensure that all direct care workers have a living wage; a safe, respectful work environment; hope for advancement; adequate training; and accessible benefits to maintain their health and well-being,” said Travers, an assistant professor at the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing and co-chair of the Moving Forward Nursing Home Quality Coalition’s Workforce Committee. “Only when we recognize that these workers are critically important, hardworking professionals can we begin to improve equity and health for staff and older adults alike.”

Direct care workers comprise 4.5 million personal care aides, home health aides, and nursing assistants, which make up the largest segment of the long-term care workforce and provide the majority of direct care for more than seven million older adults. They are predominantly female (87 percent), people of color (59 percent), and of immigrant status (27 percent).

In her testimony, Travers said that a multi-pronged approach comprising the federal government, state governments, payors, aging organizations, providers, advocates, individuals with care needs, and direct care workers is needed to address the nation’s challenges.

“Without these critical workers, basic activities of daily living such as walking, eating, and toileting — along with maintaining a sense of independence and well-being — would be largely unattainable for many older adults,” Travers said.

As an active and founding member of both the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations and the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, GSA has been a steadfast supporter of emphasizing the importance of expanding the long-term care workforce as well as maximizing direct care workers’ contributions to the delivery of high-quality services for a growing and evolving population of long-term care consumers.

“We appreciate the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s continued leadership in advancing issues that provide community supports to benefit all of us as we age,” said GSA CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH, ScD (Hon). “GSA favors the passage of legislation such as the Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act.”


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure includes a nonpartisan public policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and GSA is also home to the National Center to Reframe Aging and the National Coordinating Center for the Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research.

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