The need for aging caregivers is emphasized in a February 26 MSNBC opinion piece authored by Senior Director of Research and Innovation for the Arizona Center on Aging Linda Phillips, PhD, RN, and Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Arizona Center on Aging Mindy Fain, MD. The piece, “Bruce Willis’ Frontotemporal Dementia Diagnosis Reveals an Uncomfortable Truth,” highlights the vast majority of aging individuals in the United States receive care at home, including those with dementia. Most of the care is provided by millions of informal caregivers who often face difficulties of their own. Dr. Phillips and Dr. Fain write many of the difficulties stem from a lack of support. Currently, there is a critical shortage of direct care workers, especially those with specialized knowledge and skills, which minimizes the alternative options in care for families.
Dr. Phillips and Dr. Fain call for a multi-pronged approach to remedy the lack of caregivers. Part of their suggestions include awareness campaigns that elevate the social value of caregivers, legislation that gives priority to developing essential systems of support, and state and federal funding to increase the skilled health care force.