I just returned from the leadership meeting of the Coaltion to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC). This is an organization that brings together people from a variety of disciplines (clergy to academics, clinicians to CEOs of health agencies)to discuss issues related to changing the health care system, especially in the last years of life. Again, a theme that was present was the growing need for competent qualified people to take care of a growing aging population. The costs involved with this challenge (as many of us know) can be overwhelming. As I mention when I go out to speak, this issue may be “the” social justice issue for Boomers in the next 20 years.
As part of this discussion, we are seeing a gradual increase in attention being paid to home health care workers. USA Today acrried a story a while ago “Home Care Workers Rally for Raises” (February 23. p. B-1) that reported on the inequity of salaries paid to these workers. The Labor Department and the National Employment Law Project noted that these workers are among the lowest paid people “despite fast growing demand for home-based caregivers to serve Baby Boomers over the next decade”. Demand for these workers is expected to increase within the next decade by close to 50% for home health and personal aides.
In a very interesting and timely new book entitled “The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changin America”, Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of Caring Across Generations makes the argument for increased awareness on the part of leadership, to the needs of these home health aides. She writes that: “One thing we know is that the longer people live, the more likely they are to need assistance. Seventy percent of people aged sixty-five or older need some sort of support. By 2050, the total number of individuals needing long term care and personal assistance is projected to grow from 12 million to 27 million.”
This issue is not theoretical. We all know people for whom the challenges of care-giving are quite real and the stress on how to pay for it often is quite stressful. The expected shortage in trained people, who should expect a decent living wage, presents our society with major challenges. But who is responding? More on this to come.
Rabbi Richard F Address