A groundbreaking report released this month by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that much more support is needed in order to address the needs of both older adults and the nearly 18 million family members who provide care.
Donna Wagner, dean of the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University, served on an Institute of Medicine panel of experts that conducted the comprehensive, two-year study of family caregiving in the U.S.
Family caregiving is essential to the well-being of elders who need help with day-to-day activities, remaining independent in the community, recovering from health episodes and managing daily life. They also provide a range of services for their older relatives including, at times, taking care of complex health needs. “Families Caring for an Aging America” is an important review of the overall needs of family caregiving in an aging nation and the policy changes necessary to address these needs as an increasing number of American age in place.
The AARP Public Policy Institute estimates that 419,000 New Mexicans provide some help to adults with care needs annually. Between 2015 and 2030, the state is expected to experience an increase of 80 percent in the number of New Mexico elders aged 80 and over, an age that is often associated with care needs. Both the amount of care provided and the duration is likely to increase in the near future as New Mexico’s aging population increases.
The panel recommended a wide array of policy changes to better address the needs of family caregivers and those they help. The committee issued an urgent call to action for federal policy makers including the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretaries of Labor and Veteran’s Affairs to implement a National Family Caregiver Strategy to ensure that there is a transformation in policies and practices that relate to family caregiving of older adults with an emphasis on person and family-centered care.
A copy of the report can be found at www.nationalacademies.org/