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Sunday, January 21, 2018
HomeHealthGeriatricsReport: better policies needed to help family caregivers

Report: better policies needed to help family caregivers

caregivingcover_rgbWe need a national strategy to address the needs of family caregivers. That’s the conclusion of last week’s 280 page reportFamilies Caring for an Aging America, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Findings from a panel of experts call for forward-thinking policies and community efforts to help the estimated 18 million family members who care for an aging parent, or a spouse or child with a serious medical condition.


While each caregiving situation is different, one thing they have in common is that family caregiving affects their physical, emotional, and financial health, said Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, President of the John A. Hartford Foundation, one of the report’s co-sponsors. Fulmer was a co-chair of the committee prior to joining the Foundation. Many caregivers say they are stressed out, overwhelmed, and feel like the entire challenge rests on their shoulders.


There’s increasing urgency in finding solutions to caregiver concerns. People are living longer, but with more chronic conditions. Many hope to age in place and avoid institutional care for as long as possible. According to the report, the  need to address caregivers’ concerns is growing more urgent. Demand for caregivers is rising dramatically, especially among those age 80 and older, but the number of available caregivers is shrinking. Smaller families, more never-married or divorced older adults, geographic distance are some of the reasons.


More caregivers, still primarily women, work outside of the home. They find themselves caught between juggling job responsibilities and providing needed care to their loved one at home. Without community supports, more flexible employment options, and financial assistance, family caregiving in the U.S. is quickly reaching crisis levels.


I spoke with Fulmer about these challenges, and possible interventions. And, we discussed what policy changes are needed at all levels to overcome systemic barriers that family caregivers face every day.


Listen here




Written by

Liz Seegert, MA, is the director of the Media Fellows Program at the GW Nursing Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement. She has spent more than 30 years reporting and writing about health and other topics for print, digital and broadcast media. Her primary beats currently encompass aging, Baby Boomers, health policy and social determinants of health. She edits the aging topic area for the Association of Health Care Journalists website, writing and gathering resources on the many health issues affecting older adults. She also co-produces the GW Nursing Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement “HealthCetera” podcast, diving into health issues underreported in traditional media. As a senior fellow, she will continue to report on vital public health issues, seeking out voices who offer unique perspectives on policy, health care and practice issues. As director of the Media Fellows Program at the center, she mentors early-career health journalists to build their understanding of these and other key issues within the health care delivery system.

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