On Wednesday, April 16th, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing entitled "Caring For Our Seniors: How Can We Support Those On The Frontlines?". The Committee Chairman, Senator H. Kohl (D-WI) led the hearing. During the hearing Senators engaged in dialogue with distinguished panelists including professors of medicine, geriatrics and aging issues as well as practitioners in those fields. The topics discussed included:
Improving training and retention strategies for caregivers;
Placing a higher value on geriatric medicine;
 Recruiting more students and creating more incentives for them;
Balancing concerns about the Medicare trust fund and concerns about providing adequate geriatric care including wages;
Broad-based approaches to caregiving; and
Resources for family caregivers.
The other side of the caregiving issue was also discussed – informal care. An ever increasing number of Americans find themselves caring both for their children as well as their parents. According to a National Alliance of Caregivers (NAC)/AARP survey, in November 2006, between 30 million and 38 million adult caregivers provided care to adults with limitation in an activity of daily living. Caregivers provide on average 21 hours of care per week. About half of caregivers contribute financially to their parent’s budget, spending on average $200 per month or $2,400 per year. According to a 2004 NAC/AARP study, about 23% of caregivers say that caregiving is a financial hardship. The findings of this survey illustrate that 1) many seniors are coming up short financially and rely upon their children to help plug the gap; 2) almost one-fifth of workers are informal caregivers; and 3) when caregivers take time off from work and contribute financially to their parents, they come up short in their retirement and so the cycle continues. Policy must be crafted to address the current shortfalls regarding both formal and informal caregiving. At WOW, we are particularly interested in see parity in part-time work for those finding themselves in need of providing informal care. We also feel strongly about providing professional caregivers self-sufficient wages as well as health and retirement benefits. But this is just the beginning; we need to start to think more holistically about the role of the public and private sector when it comes to caregiving. Our economy can no longer afford to rely upon the private support of families to carry the full responsibility of caregiving. The hearing held on this topic is a good first step in the right direction.
For more information about the witnesses or to read testimony, please visit the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging's website by clicking HERE.
Comments Please: What have you experienced in the caregiving industry or family caregiving? What aspects need to be improved upon as older Americans become a significantly larger part of our population?