A few months ago we discussed the impact of the rapidly growing aging population on resources, caregivers, and families. Recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported that without a reprioritization and reorientation of caregiving resources nationwide, the current healthcare infrastructure couldn’t sustain the inevitable demand of aging adults. Committee chair Richard Schulz, Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh put it bluntly, saying that, “ignoring family caregivers leaves them unprepared for the tasks they are expected to perform, carrying significant economic and personal burdens.”
If you’re currently a caregiver, this information probably doesn’t surprise you. The study reports that we have insufficient resources for caregivers, Congress cannot pass legislation that is needed, we have all the data to predict what will happen, and we haven’t done enough to prepare. Although this is a bleak analysis of the current state of affairs, the report offers hope with sound recommendations that each of us needs to echo to our friends, family, local and state legislators, as well as congressmen and senators. Do your part and act on this now – we will all be impacted if we are unprepared for the future.
Five Recommendations from the National Academies to Fix Caregiving
1. Develop a National Family Caregiver Strategy
This first recommendation is geared directly at a public-private partnership to collaborate, develop, and, most importantly, execute a plan to prepare and adapt the U.S. healthcare system to support the upcoming needs of an aging population. The need for long-term care services is increasing rapidly which will put a strain on workplace support, the healthcare infrastructure, as well as increase cost and increase demand on caregivers. Caregivers and caregiving need to be at the forefront of this type of legislation.
2. Deal with Medicare, Medicaid, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
This second recommendation is specifically targeting the healthcare providers that will see immense demand in the coming years. An immediate strategy must be developed to assess the current needs of the aging population, the current supply of resources, and how to effectively and efficiently develop the federally funded programs to support these findings. The specific focus needs to be on long-term care services. In addition, a significant change in payment reform is necessary to increase incentives to providers and patients.
3. Increase Funding for Caregiver Support Networks
The third recommendation is specifically focused on increasing funding to caregiver support groups down to the local level. Such groups can provide caregiver programs that will educate, train, and inform caregivers on best practices.
4. Strengthen and Improve How Healthcare Providers Engage with Caregivers
The fourth recommendation will be necessary so that providers can consistently support and engage caregivers. This will be critical, as caregivers will continue to provide day-to-day support to millions of aging adults.
5. Improve Economic Support of Working Caregivers
This final recommendation deals directly with the financial impact that being a caregiver can have on someone. The financial burden many caregivers feel can be dealt with by adjusting the national leave policy, making changes to insurance coverage, instituting workplace accommodations, and much more.
The family caregiver is in urgent need. The evidence is clear and the recommendations are strong. Share this information with your friends and loved ones and do your part to advocate for change. Changes made today will dramatically shape the future of caregiving.