90% of long-term care is provided by families. And 66 million Americans are taking care of aging, chronically, or disabled loved ones. So, the next time you see an aging, chronically ill, or disabled person, pause to notice who is with them. That person is an unsung hero. They didn’t choose their role and yet they’re expected to fill it without any training and with minimal support. These unpaid family “caregivers” work tirelessly, often times during their workday at their job, to ensure their loved ones are taken care of.
In follow up to The Looming Caregiving Crisis (part 1), the following solutions map out how the US can start to improve the family caregiving experience.
1. Better organization and utilization of social workers
Social workers are the skilled and trained workforce equipped to help families navigate and manage care. Unfortunately, the state-based Departments of Aging provide low quality care to only the economically neediest families. And private social workers employed by insurance companies and providers, provide fragmented and specialized support.
2. Increase the use of technology for management and modern communication
Modern consumer brands (Airbnb, Uber) leverage modern platforms for enabling more seamless communication and online storage. The same connected platform experience should be provided to social workers and caregivers to reduce miscommunication, increase adherence, and provide real- time support.
3. Legislation to require minimal benefits for caregivers
Similar to the new state-based requirements for employers and parents, caregivers too require reprieve from lost wages and unemployment due to taking care of a sick or aging loved one. We’ll want our government and our legislation to recognize caregiving as the important and time-intensive work that it is.
4. Better societal recognition of caregivers’ contributions
We need to collectively change our country’s conversation around caregiving. By talking more openly about the role that caregivers play, we will bring the work into the light, and provide much needed support and validation to those individuals who are doing it.