Dr. Tyra Oldham
The care services are in crisis. There has been an alarming loss of caregivers in the industry since COVID-19. The loss of professional caregivers burdens the health care system to make up for the loss of supportive care services. The more significant impact is to families making up for the loss of caregivers in the home and facilities to overextend their time and health to support family members in need of care.
In May 2020, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reported that “53 million or 21% of American adults were providing uncompensated care to an adult or child. Approximately 5.7% or 14.1 million American adults are caring for children under 18 with special needs.
These caregivers play an important role in our child, elder and health care systems. Yet 61% of them also work paying jobs during their time as caregivers. Approximately one in five adults in the United States (including Puerto Rico) reported that they had provided care for a relative or friend during 2015–2017,” suggesting that informal, unpaid caregiving is a widely occurring part of family life in the United States.
When care professionals can make more money in fast food at $15 an hour versus $12 an hour, this leaves a gap in care. Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International’s executive director said, “Globally, women account for roughly 70% of the health- and social-care workforce, which often includes essential but low-wage jobs. There is a gender inequity in care services as well.
“In the U.S. specifically, more than 22.2 million people work in the 40 lowest-paying industries, with women making up 64% of this workforce, according to the National Women’s Law Center.”
Between February 2020 and February 2021, more than 2.3 million women in the U.S. left the labor force, compared to around 1.8 million men, reports NWLC.
The loss of these essential workers continues to affect families supporting the elderly, childcare and those supporting special needs that force family members to step into the role of caregivers. Further, this impact will undoubtedly create a spike in stress-related illnesses as families manage health care, work and caregiver services previously held by care professionals.
According to Leanne Fuith’s and Susan Trombley’s research, “COVID-19 and the Caregiving Crisis: The Rights of our Nation’s Social Safety Net and a Doorway to Reform” reports that “More than one in five Americans are caregivers. Men comprise about 42% of adult caregivers, while women account for 58% of that unpaid labor force.”
In 2020 alone, women globally lost more than 64 million jobs, which equals 5% of the total jobs held by women, reports Oxfam International. By comparison, 3.9% of men’s jobs were lost last year.” According to Oxfam International, this loss of jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis cost women around the world at least $800 billion in earnings, a figure that is more than the combined GDP of 98 countries.
Now, let’s consider the role of federal and local governments and our foundational organizations in this looming crisis of care? COVID-19 impact on health continues as we consider the role of care and the economic impact it has on society. Wake up! Caregivers are essential personnel and need to be treated as such! The opportunity is to consider the role of government in care orchestration while affecting policy on managed care.
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