The face of American caregiving


I started this post a while ago, stopped for a few days, thought of it some more, started, stopped, started – you get the drift!  It’s a topic that has weighed on my mind, but because of its potential for a visceral response, it’s a topic I have hesitated to broach – before now that is.

About a month ago, Karlyn and I had breakfast with a fellow homecare owner, as we congratulated him on his success, our conversation, invariably shifted to the many changes in homecare, mutual challenges we face as business owners and then he said, “How do YOU handle it?” We briefly discussed how we approach the IT and then we moved on. A few days later, IT occurred. Again.  I found myself thinking more critically about IT and, its impact on senior care.

Before I go any further, let me thank the handful of people who’ll read this posting in its entirety. I recognize my ability to impact this topic is small, not many people will share my perspective, but hopefully the handful who read this, work with seniors and can impact their immediate environment.

13% of our population is at least 65 years old. That is approximately 53 million Americans who would potentially be receiving some form of senior care services this decade. This rapid graying of America is only rivaled by the rapid tanning of America. In the next 5 years, due to immigration and the rapid population growth, America is expected to tan considerably. As a matter of fact, it is projected that by 2020 more than 50% of the US Child Population, will be  non-white.

Home Health care is a necessary, but difficult job, which fewer and fewer Americans are willing to undertake. Despite the great need for these positons, the average American sees it as an entry level position. The immigrant sees it as an opportunity.  The live-in caregiver (someone who lives with a senior, in their home) is most likely to be an immigrant. Most Americans have roots in their families and communities and are not often willing to move-into an entry-level job situation that requires them to leave family for extended periods of time.

This paradoxical situation – aging population, increased immigration and the senior person who would prefer to have a white American caregiver – is often where senior care providers find ourselves.  Handling IT, means educating. The approach requires patience. It means, no judging, just serving. Beautiful results will often occur when we least expect it. I have had clients form lasting, respectful and loving relationships with our caregivers, despite their racial and cultural differences. Perhaps at times the bonds are formed because of these differences. Many of our caregivers have told us that in their culture, the aged is respected as wise, and given a position of esteem in the lives of the young.  In some cultures the elderly is valued, and their opinions are elevated to the place of knowledge.  The immigrant, as a caregiver, often considers it an honor and a privilege to care for their elderly clients, even treating them as family.

In the end, regardless of differences, what is important is less the IT factor and more the treasure of the love of a caregiver

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