Get Involved! Join Livable Community’s Caregiving ad hoc Committee, which is working to create solutions to the caregiver shortage. For more information, email johnsoncounty@ livablecommunity.org
What Is Caregiving? Caregiving refers to the provision of assistance to another person who is ill, disabled, or needs help with daily activities. Typical duties might include taking care of someone who has a chronic illness or disease; managing medications or talking to doctors and nurses on someone’s behalf; helping to bathe or dress someone who is frail or disabled; or taking care of household chores, meals, or bills for someone who cannot do these things alone. With an increasingly aging population, the role of caregiver has become even more important.
There are both formal caregivers (typically paid caregivers such as an RN, LPN, or CNA working in assisted living, home health care, or a nursing facility) and informal caregivers (typically non-paid caregivers assisting a spouse, mother or father, sister or brother, or neighbor).
Iowa’s Care Gap
The Iowa CareGivers website (http://www.iowacaregivers.org) states that Iowa is running out of workers to care for our growing population of elders and people with disabilities. As this population increases, the demand for services is going to exceed the supply of workers to provide those critical services.
What does this mean for you? Failing to address the care gap means you will not be able to count on a direct care worker being there for you when you need them. To prevent this care gap from becoming a crisis — and to ensure peace of mind for thousands of Iowa families — we need to invest in quality jobs for direct care workers.
“Voices of Iowans are needed to speak out on this issue to create a sense of urgency. Ask your elected leaders or candidates for office to make sure Iowa is prepared to care.”
Why, even in tough economic times, are workers hard to find? Direct care positions are among the most difficult to attract Iowans to, and keep them in, due to low wages, lack of access to health coverage and other benefits, the physical and emotional demands of the work, and few opportunities for career advancement within the field of direct care.
How to address the challenge? To meet the challenge, Iowa needs to transform “revolving door jobs” into a respected occupation; one that people can enter, make a career of, and make a good living at. Better jobs with a better trained and more stable workforce will lead to better care and services for your loved ones...and for you!
What’s It Like To Work In This Field?
There comes a time when aging spouses cannot care for one another, or their sons, daughters, and grandchildren cannot provide the care necessary to keep their parent, grandparent, or other elderly loved one safely at home. It is a difficult time for all, but it is also comforting to know there are trained caregivers and medical professionals who can provide the care and support that family members are not trained or equipped to deliver. This is where Iowa’s Long-Term Services and Supports providers come in. Nursing and rehabilitation centers, assisted living programs, residential care facilities, and home health agencies have staff members who are highly trained medical professionals and supportive caregivers to fill the void for families. These providers make round-the-clock care available for the frail elderly and people with chronic diseases. The need for workers in these settings is expanding because Iowa’s population is aging and living longer. As they age, Iowans are living with conditions and chronic diseases that require monitoring and assistance. Because the frail elderly are still functional in many aspects of life, the role of providers is to not only monitor and address health care needs, but to provide services that promote and improve their quality of life.
Working in this field can be physically and emotionally difficult, but the rewards can be immeasurable. Workers form bonds with patients and their families and take great joy and rewards from serving others to make their lives better. A caregiver in a long-term care setting helps the patient groom, get ready for the day, or do stimulating activities. Certain patients struggle physically, others struggle cognitively due to Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and patient depression may be a factor as well.
So How Do I Become A Caregiver?
Iowa area community colleges offer Certified Nursing Assistant training programs that prepare you to work in a nursing home, home health care agency, group home, or hospital. Another program has been developed and piloted by the Iowa Department of Public Health through the Direct Care Advisory Council. Prepare to Care: Iowa’s Direct Care and Support Curriculum is a comprehensive, cross-discipline training package that prepares you to work in a variety of direct care settings. Visit www.iowapreparetocare.com for more information.
Building a career in caregiving means you will have the satisfaction of knowing your work matters. Every day you will be able to see your efforts directly helping the people you are serving. Many organizations, including the Iowa Health Care Association, offer scholarships for employees of member facilities taking college classes to advance their career.
Find more information:
Iowans hurt by decline in home health care aides: Read The Gazette article.