Who Will Be The Caregivers Of Tomorrow?
As we face a global aging epidemic, countries will need to do more, with less. With fewer taxpayers to support those in need, fewer health care providers due to reduced birthrate, tight immigration policies and archaic medical boards and agencies reluctant to accept foreign graduates to fill needy positions, who will care for our seniors?
Our rapidly aging society is forcing us to adapt to a new reality that seniors, while consuming the largest portion of healthcare dollars, also represents the fastest growing demographic of the 21st century.
We can consider incentives to increase the birthrate but that results in other problems. A child born today will only graduate in 25 years. So, increasing the birthrate by incentivising larger families will not only detract from the resources needed to fight many of todays problems, but will only result in benefit 25 years down the road. What politician is willing to take this step? Very few, I suspect.
At a recent conference in Boston, a representative of Japan eloquently presented the fact that the population of seniors has quadrupled in the last 40 years and within in the next 40 years 42% of the population will be seniors. The currently low birthrate, combined with projected job opportunities and needs, shows that there will be few available physical resources to care for and treat their aging population. This is by no means unique to Japan. Demographic projections around the world reveal that our population is aging, rapidly.
Nearly 30% of our population of 15 years of age and over are currently acting as caregivers.
What is a Caregiver?
Traditionally, caregivers are literally, care-givers. Children taking care of their parents, parents taking care of grandparents, family members and relatives make up the largest pool of caregivers, mostly unpaid. Caregiver stress and burnout are well documented, as are the financial strains placed on families, and governments.
Over 50% of carers globally say their health has suffered as a result of their caring responsibilities even whilst expressing positive sentiments about their role*.
Most caregivers are taught by example, watching previous generations care for their loved ones. While there are many for-profit caregiver agencies that will provide some level of training, there is no Bachelor of Science in Caregiving at the college level. Certainly becoming a nurse or nurse assistant is honorable, but the standards are not universal, nor are the licencing requirements. If the majority of caregivers are family members, who among them has the time or resources to undergo formal training? How will the caregiver survive on little or no pay? What effect does a caregiver have on the caregiver’s own family? Good questions without good answers.
The demand for caregivers, worldwide, is growing exponentially. The trend is universal. The majority of caregivers are currently family members who give up work, school and pay to care for a loved one.
6 Things We Can Do Today To Prepare For Our Aging Population?
- Pay caregivers – entice new career opportunities in caregiving. Paying a caregiver is a fraction of the cost of caring for a senior in a residence, long-term care or hospital facility.
- Increase birthrate – prepare for the future. We need more children.
- Increase immigration – relaxing rules so folks from underprivileged areas of the world can fill much needed occupations.
- Maximize the use of technology in Healthcare – automation with health sensors, dispensers, telemedicine devices allow patients to be treat and monitored remotely. This also reduces the need for transportation to doctors offices, hospitals and clinics.
- Create universally acceptable medical and nursing degrees – A practicing physician with 10 years experience in a foreign country, should be allowed to practice in North America. If not, we need to create international standards and medical exams so graduating health care professionals are truly portable.
- Retire later – Keeping people working longer, provides additional tax revenue while maintain the expertise and knowledge base needed for juniors to succeed.
In conclusion, there is only 1 answer to the question of who will be the caregivers of the future – the children of today. Let’s entice this new generation into the honorable profession of caregiving. Let’s add morals, ethics and compassion to their education. The circle of life is not just a Disney film, it is the course life should take for us all.