NORFOLK, Va. - Members of the aging services industry say they're on the brink.
"This is the most important moment in decades for older Americans and their families," said Katie Smith Sloan, the president & CEO of LeadingAge.
Groups across the country say they need help in paying employees reasonable wages, keeping up with demand and ensuring there's enough affordable housing for seniors.
Congress is taking up a budget reconciliation bill and aging services leaders say they need funding from Congress to help them.
"If these trends continue by the end of the decade, the United States will be short 4.5 million home healthcare aides," said David Totaro, who's the chief government affairs officer of a home healthcare company.
The leaders say the consequences could be disastrous, especially as the baby boomer generation ages. They say they need help to boost pay.
"To say that it's the same wage or less for someone asking if you want fries with that at McDonald's is ridiculous. We are talking about putting the lives of the most vulnerable in the hands of people we are not compensating at an appropriate rate," said Carol Silver-Elliott, a provider from New Jersey.
Local aging services business owners have been sounding the alarm themselves. Caring Hearts Senior Living has stopped taking on new Medicaid clients for home healthcare services in Hampton Roads.
"As a new business, we can't afford to," said Iris Wright, Caring Hearts' owner. "Like now going through everything, I have not been able to pay myself and I opened in January."
Wright is optimistic things will get better soon, but says it's been a tough start for her business. "It's just very difficult."
The leaders are hoping lawmakers will get their message.