Celebrating Women in Home Health Care

Happy International Women’s Day!

Women are vital to home health care, both as employees and patients, and today we celebrate the contributions of women in the industry and the patients who benefit from their care.

The National Women’s History Museum credits Lillian D. Wald, founder of what is today the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, with inspiring the New York Board of Health to organize the first public nursing system in the world.

Nationally, women are tremendous assets to our healthcare industry, and this is especially true for home health care. In 2014, a whopping 88.6% of persons employed in home health services were women; that’s over a million women employed in the industry! Nationwide, women make up roughly 47% of the workforce, and while women are more likely to work in the health care industry writ large (78.6%), home health care is still even more female-dominated than the industry as a whole. Within the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “health care and social assistance” industry marker, home health care services employ the second greatest percentage of women.

It’s not just in the workforce where women are prominent. Looking at information from the 2015 Home Health Chartbook, home health patients are also more likely to be women, with females comprising 61.5% of home health users (compared with 54.6% of all Medicare beneficiaries). Women actually comprise a smaller percentage of home health users than males under age 85, but over a quarter of female home health users are over 85.

Diving deeper into the demographics, women are three times more likely than their male counterparts to be widowers, while less than a third are married. Women who receive Medicare home health services are also much more likely than male users to have an income below $25,000 a year.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2009 fact sheet on “Medicare’s Role for Women” across the Medicare population, women are more likely than men to suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and osteoporosis. Almost 50% of women, compared with 38% of men, suffer from three or more chronic conditions. That same paper noted that while Medicare plays a critical role for women, women are still more likely than men to spend a greater share of their incomes on medical care. It is therefore crucial to continue finding ways to both ensure funding of the program and new innovation and models to help women face the challenges posed by a rapidly aging population.

Home health care is shaped very much by women, as patients, providers, and innovators. Today we thank them, and look forward to their continued role in molding the home health care delivery system of the future.