Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Need for qualified eldercare outpacing trained, available caregivers

The story, told in the Foster Daily Democrat newspaper (Dover, NH) is one familiar to most family caregivers.

“…Between the constant worry that her mother, Aletha Mitchell, may fall again, and the hours spent bringing her to the doctor, running errands and paying bills, the physical and mental exhaustion of this second full-time job has set in for the 56-year-old Dover reading tutor.”

Family members are assuming more and more of their parent’s caregiving responsibilities. They want to keep their loved one at home, if at all possible. And they need help to make that happen.

“By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older, and by 2050, there will be 88.5 million citizens in that age group, more than doubling the current 65-and-over population. Meanwhile, the number of working-age people between ages 18 and 64 is projected to decline from 63 percent now to 57 percent in 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

The challenge is that, as our population ages, we won’t have enough younger, willing people to care for the aged in their homes. We certainly, even today, have a gap in the number of trained, qualified in-home caregivers.

As one of the experts in the article points out, the care that previously required a hospital or nursing home stay is today being provided at home. Individuals are being discharged to home with more complex medical problems, caregiving needs and fragile health states.

As caregivers frequently say, caregiving for these individuals isn’t for sissies. It requires knowledge, skills and training.

“Along with pay, there needs to be more training programs and a broader volunteer base for those caring for loved ones in order to offset the occupation's dwindling ‘population base.’”

Now is the time to begin exploring this problem in depth, and finding solutions for our own loved ones’ care and for the future needs of the aged nationwide.

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