An age-old question is gaining in urgency

By Neil Johnson, StarTribune.com, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, October 12, 2008 Our population is aging rapidly.  “In 2004, there were 36.3 million people 65 or older in the United States, or 12 percent of the population. By 2030, the number is expected to increase to at least 20 percent of the population, or about 71.5 million.”  90% of all care of the elderly is done by family caregivers in the home.  Yet family caregivers are strained with responsibilities.  On average caregivers who live more than one hour from their loved ones miss 20 hours of work per month due to their caregiving duties.  In addition, the health care industry is facing acute and escalating shortages of nurses, therapists, home health aides and personal care attendants.  Some of these are the lowest paid jobs in the country (typical wages of $9 to $12 per hour), so it is difficult to attract qualified workers to these positions.

This article lists some proposed solutions.  Among them, it advocates doing more to support family caregivers.  In addition to mentioning the need for caregiver education, and technology, it describes innovative community-based programs whereby neighbors participate in a cooperative, sharing elder care duties and paying a membership fee to cover the costs of private duty aides.  It also mentions neighborhood-based block nurse programs, concluding “it takes a community to care for its elders.

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