Op Ed

A Caregiver Shortage Faces ‘Silver Tsunami’

The work is hard, the pay poor. Biden’s American Jobs Plan could help.

By - Jun 19th, 2021 09:54 am
Photo of Caregiver Nurse

Photo of Caregiver Nurse. Photo by Direct Media from StockSnap

Caregivers and health care workers are in crisis. To be real about it, that was true long before the pandemic struck. Now, more than a year later, the challenges are greater than ever when it comes to caregivers and where we go from here.

Put simply, the difficulties my colleagues and I face on the job aren’t like so many of the struggles the pandemic made worse. Because our reality is that even as the pandemic fades and our communities get back to some degree of normal, many of our struggles are going to get worse.

The demand for caregiving is growing at a rate that the supply of caregivers cannot match. We are on the cusp of what is often called a “silver tsunami” – an enormous increase in our elderly population.

Advances in health care are extending the lifetimes of the baby boomers, which is great, if we can ensure they live their golden years with dignity. Unfortunately, we know all too well that a longer life doesn’t mean there aren’t serious health challenges that require medical attention, treatment and assistance along the way. The demand is growing already, and there is no end in sight.

That brings us to the supply side of this equation. There aren’t enough caregivers to go around.

Why? For starters, the work is hard, physically and mentally. Caregivers also are underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated. It is simply too difficult for us to provide for ourselves and our families on the wages our essential work brings in. Like so many of my colleagues, I found that a full-time caregiving job wasn’t enough. I had to work a second job just to make sure I could provide for myself and my family.

If we don’t address these issues the current crisis is going to erupt into a full-blown nightmare for millions of families.

That’s where the American Jobs Plan comes in. President Biden’s proposal includes $400 billion dedicated to creating jobs in caregiving and raising the wages of workers in the field. This proposal is currently awaiting action in Congress — which is why I was so proud to join community members who know we need to do more to support caregivers outside of Sen. Ron Johnson’s office recently to urge him to support the Jobs Plan.

Among the investments the American Jobs Plan would make in caregiving is an extension of home and community based services through the Money Follows the Person program. These investments are an essential first step in attracting more workers into the caregiving profession and ensuring that those doing the work are treated fairly in the workplace.

An even larger crisis in caregiving is on its way. If we don’t support caregivers now, the impact of the “silver tsunami,” when it crashes ashore, will hit each and every one of us. It’s time to act. It’s time to pass the American Jobs Plan.

American Jobs Plan: Making a difference for caregivers was originally published by Wisconsin Examiner.

Demetrica Shipp has worked in healthcare for more than 30 years. She is a member of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin who lives and works in Milwaukee.

Categories: Health, Op-Ed, Politics

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