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America Facing Family Caregiver Shortage; GSA Bolsters Call for New Supports

For Immediate Release
September 14, 2016

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

The need for family caregivers in the U.S. is rapidly increasing, yet demographic shifts are causing the pool of potential family caregivers to decrease, according to “Families Caring for an Aging America,” a new highly anticipated report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Currently, nearly 18 million people in this country provide some form of care for loved ones age 65 or older.

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — fully supports the report’s call for retooling the health care delivery system through practice and policy change to more appropriately recognize and support the integral role of family caregivers.

“The recommendations set forth in this major new report challenge us to transform the health care experience for older adults and their family caregivers,” said GSA President Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD. “The approach requires a multidimensional, interdisciplinary effort that spans diverse settings of care. GSA strongly supports this effort to create a person- and family-centered model for team-based care that recognizes and rewards the role of the family caregiver.”

The report emphasizes that family caregivers are key sources of information and care delivery, and that their participation within the care team is essential; yet, they are often marginalized or excluded in care delivery and support systems.
 
“Families Caring for an Aging America” is the result of 20 months of research overseen by a committee of 19 caregiving experts, more than half of whom are GSA members.

GSA Executive Director and CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH, said the organization is well-poised to take action on the proposals outlined in the report and pledged to work in the coming months alongside the Academies, the John A. Hartford Foundation, and other key stakeholders to amplify and operationalize these recommendations.

“We now have a sound blueprint for research, policy, and practice change for years to come,” Appleby said. “The report not only calls for immediate steps to address the health, economic, and social needs of caregivers, but also envisions an important public-private, multi-stakeholder innovation fund to advance the necessary research, demonstration, and practice evaluations needed to move the field forward. GSA members are doing much of this work already and we look forward to playing a role in advancing these efforts.”

The report recommends that the secretary of health and human services, in collaboration with the secretaries of labor and veterans affairs and others, create and implement a National Family Caregiver Strategy. This would include mechanisms that ensure family caregivers are identified in care delivery to older adults; payment reform to motivate providers to engage family caregivers effectively; training health care providers to engage family caregivers; dissemination and funding for evidence-based caregiver services; evaluation and adoption of federal policies that provide economic support to working caregivers; and an expanded national data collection infrastructure to create a knowledge base about caregivers.

Another critical component addresses the link between the needs of patients and their caregivers and the health care professionals who make up the interdisciplinary teams that provide care. The report calls for improving the competencies in geriatrics and points to the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program as a positive but underfunded federal program that attempts to address the gap between the growing aging population and those who know how to provide their needed care.

“Families Caring for an Aging America” is available at nationalacademies.org/caregiving.

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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

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