Amid a national shortage of workers, aging Americans are facing unprecedented difficulties when it comes to getting care. At-home help is harder to find, and it’s costing nearly two to three times more, putting a burden on caregivers.

The healthcare industry calls it the “Silver Tsunami.” The U.S. is now made up of a majority of older Americans.

As they age, they need help but inflation and staffing shortages are creating unprecedented difficulties for seniors and their families. 

“The staffing crisis is really at catastrophic levels,” said Eric Essley, president and CEO of LeadingAge Indiana.

Essley says assisted living centers are overwhelmed with patients.

“We don’t have the opportunity to shut down those beds or the dining facilities for those folks,” Essley said.

That’s one of the reasons some aging seniors are opting to age in place at home. 

Senior1Care trains and employs certified nursing assistants. COO Patrick Broccolo launched the company after caring for his own aging loved one.

“When you have all that, family can go back to being family,” Broccolo said. He says he’s seen an increase in Hoosiers reaching out for assistance but fewer applicants to get trained.

If you are able to find available at-home care, it’s costing more than ever before.

“On average, most people when they are looking for care giving assistance at home, most people on average need six to 12 hours a week of assistance to start,” said Lauren Gwynn, executive director at the Shepherd Center of Hamilton County. “That could start at $22, $25 up to $35 per hour.”

Gwynn says she receives a dozen phone calls a day from overwhelmed family members saying they don’t know how to afford or get the care the care they need for their loved one. 

“Luckily for people in the state of Indiana, there are programs and resources available for people that we will help families apply to receive financial assistance for caregiving assistance at home,” Gwynn said.

For fixed-income seniors, a new medication or an unexpected expense could push them into poverty. “Seniors are struggling with day to day costs generally,” Gwynn said.

Gwynn says while the pandemic has made the situation worse, Indiana has long lacked care for aging seniors. Every year, AARP releases rankings on how the states compare in caring for their aging population.

“Indiana is always the last or second last, or the bottom,” Gwynn said. “The main reason for that is we don’t provide enough support to help people aging in place.”

“We need to step up as a society and treat these folks, these residents, how they need to be treated,” Essley said.

Experts say one thing to improve this issue is for lawmakers to examine how insurance is being reimbursed. While there’s no one solution, local leaders and organizations hope more lawmakers start paying attention to this growing problem.