National Assisted Living Week, September 9-15, 2001, is a good time for Americans to salute the dedicated work of assisted living personnel throughout our nation, who provide compassionate service to our seniors, often under difficult circumstances.
Attending to another person’s health and well-being remains one of the finest and noblest callings, and the men and women who form the backbone of our nation’s increasingly popular assisted living care settings demonstrate daily their commitment to helping others.
As we commend our caregivers, it’s essential to note that it is becoming harder and harder to recruit and retain frontline caregivers, who are serving more and more residents-and this is emerging as one of the most critical problems facing our nation’s long-term care system. In order to begin solving problems that impact our future, it’s instructive to learn from our past: shortages of key workers in other professions were recently met with focused and effective bipartisan efforts from our Washington policy makers.
Early in the 1990s, our nation faced a shortage of both teachers and police officers that prompted the call for a national effort to recruit, train, and employ these workers critical to maintaining both educational progress and law and order in our society. Consequently, the President and Congress worked cooperatively to find and fill many of these positions by increasing various incentives for entrance into these fields.
Now, a decade later, our nation finds itself dangerously short of qualified caregivers just as the front edge of the baby-boom retirement wave approaches and will increase the overall demand for care. We face a problem no less critical than we did just a few years ago in law enforcement and education, and without a doubt, our elected officials in Washington need to make caregiver recruitment, training, and employment a national priority. It’s important to let our elected officials know that solving this problem is essential if we are to ensure our seniors receive the quality care they need and deserve.
The National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) have called on Congress to pass legislation to recruit and train 250,000 frontline caregivers by 2002. This must and should be a primary objective of Congress and the Bush Administration. Maintaining ready access to quality care and ensuring an adequate supply of caregivers exists within the long-term care system won’t just happen-these goals will be achieved only when we as a society decide that the proper investment in long- term care isn’t just an option, but a necessity.
This week, we should all make it a point to thank and recognize the talented and compassionate individuals who care for our family members, friends and neighbors in assisted living settings. They are indeed a national treasure. We must also invest in this national treasure and ask our elected representatives in Washington to act now to ensure our nation has adequate numbers of qualified caregivers to meet the retirement needs of our rapidly aging nation.