It's hard to imagine not being able to do the everyday tasks we often take for granted. For some, it's simply not an option.

"I was diagnosed with MS in 1985," said Carol Hersh, who receives home health care.

Hersh says she depends on the help of home health care workers for nearly everything. She's able to receive 20 hours of services a day. But since the pandemic, she says, sometimes the assistance isn't available.

"Largely I look at my schedule and there's no one there. I call the company and they say we're working on it. At the end of the day, they're still working on it," Hersh said.

"Unfortunately, Carol's experience is happening across Pennsylvania," said Teri Henning, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association.

She says nearly every licensed health care agency across the state is forced to turn clients away.

"Some agencies are down hundreds of caregivers since the start of the pandemic, and their ability to attract and hire new caregivers is less than impossible given the rates that they are reimbursed through Medicaid," Hennings said.

Hennings says home health care workers are being paid about $12 an hour. It's set to increase slightly in the coming year, but Hennings says it may not be enough.

"The hourly pay will only get to about $13.50 an hour, so much lower than what we know McDonalds, Sheets, Amazon and a whole bunch of other private employers are willing and able to pay," Hennings said. 

It's an issue that agencies have been dealing with for years. It's only been made worse by the pandemic, leaving recipients left with few options.

"Homecare is so important because it often means the difference between someone's safety at home and helping them stay out of nursing homes, hospitals or other facilities where there are different risks for them," Hennings said.

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