State Expected To Face Serious Shortage of Eldercare Providers

On Tuesday, California lawmakers reported that the state is facing a serious shortage of health workers to care for its elderly population, "California Watch Blog" reports.

Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, called a three-hour hearing on the issue with Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda), chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment.

Adding Up the Numbers

More than 4.4 million Californians are age 65 or older. By 2050, that population is expected to grow to 11.5 million, or one in five Californians, according to the state Department of Finance.  

However, only 534 certified geriatricians practice in the state, according to data from the American Board of Internal Medicine. The figures suggest that there are 8,262 California seniors for every geriatrician.

The state also has 508,900 direct care workers, including home health aides and certified nurse assistants, according to a report from the SCAN Foundation.

California also has millions of unpaid caregivers, such as family members. The average age of caregivers is 51, suggesting that the state could face challenges as its caregiver population ages.

Calling for More Health Workers

During the hearing, educators, eldercare advocates and health care providers discussed the need to recruit, train and retain more geriatricians and other health workers.

Speakers suggested that the state could encourage more young people to pursue health care jobs by offering public education opportunities and loan repayment programs.

Heather Young -- dean and associate vice chancellor for nursing at the UC-Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing -- emphasized the importance of encouraging medical specialists to learn more about eldercare issues. She said, "It's about gerontologizing, taking what they know and equipping them to serve the people they're serving better" (Lin, "California Watch Blog," 11/10).
Deane Beebe
For more information on California's direct-care workforce, including the projected number of workers that will be needed to meet demand, median wages and benefits for this workforce, and the settings where they work, see "PHI State Facts: California’s Direct-Care Workforce." For information about the nation's direct-care workforce, visit PHI's website.
Danijela Dornan
For many family members, having to stay at home to take care of their elderly loved one means giving up their job because they cannot afford to pay for in-home care or insttitunalization. California is ranked 4th in the nation for its high cost in long-term care servcies. Many caregivers cannot leave their family members at home alone because of various heatlh issues, such as Alzheimer's disease, it would be unsafe to do so. This isan't about personal accountability it's about reality and the reality is that caring for our elderly family members affects families emotionally, physically, and fiscally. Plus, don't forget about the increasing number of caregivers that fall under the "sandiwch generation"- they not only have to care for their elderly parents but also take care of their own children. Even those that are financially well off are having a hard time making ends meet.
Dianna Garrett
Robert, I don't think the author is implying that the family caregivers should be paid; they are just differentiating the unpaid from the paid caregivers in the State to give readers an idea of the scope of the need. I am happy to say that there are doctors and caregivers that specialize in geriatric care that are PACE Providers (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.) Some of our doctors are geriatricians, some are not, and yet all our providers (doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, rehabilitative therapists, home care workers, recreational therapists and social workers) all specialize in geriatric care. The shortage is very real, but there are creative programs out there that are training and developing the next generation of geriatric caregivers.
Robert Forster
"California also has millions of unpaid caregivers, such as family members." Should not the family be the moral first line of caregivers for family members and why does this imply that they should be paid? So this is the nanny state I was warned about where no personal individual accountability exists and all power and personal dependence resides with the government. All rights flow from the government and not the other way around. We have taken a very bad and irreversable course of social engineering.

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