Mainers are getting older, along with the health care work force that looks after them. That’s setting the stage for a big problem, says Sandra Butler, professor of social work at the University of Maine.
With many younger adults moving away to find jobs, she said, older Mainers with Alzheimer’s and other forms of age-related dementia may find themselves without the care they need to stay safely in their homes or specialized institutions.
Butler is one of four Mainers invited by the national Eldercare Workforce Alliance to meet today with the state’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., to urge funding for programs that support Americans with dementia and their caregivers.
Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, established to advocate for those who are affected by the devastating disorder that drains memory, language and personality from its victims. Thousands of advocates will visit the nation’s capital to press for federal appropriations for education, professional incentives and other means of building a competent work force dedicated to the care of aging Americans.
“There are too few workers properly trained to care for older adults — a challenge that will only worsen as the baby boom generation begins to retire,” Butler said in a prepared statement. With the erosion of the traditional family structure, she said, more federal funding is needed to train and employ a qualified professional work force of social workers, physicians, nurses and other direct-care providers who understand the needs of patients with dementia.
Others invited from Maine include geriatric specialist Dr. Jabbar Fezeli of Portland, registered nurse Bridget McDonough of South Berwick and certified nursing assistant Helen Hanson of South China.
Hanson, who fractured her ankle over the weekend and was unable to make the trip, said Monday that home care workers in particular are poorly paid and unlikely to have benefits such as health insurance, paid vacations or sick time.
According to the Maine Alzheimer’s Association, one of every eight Americans over the age of 65 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Almost half of those over 85 are affected by the disorder. Maine has among the oldest populations in the nation and about 25,000 individuals estimated to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Mainers unite to urge Alzheimer’s funding