The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has reported women comprise 58 per cent of persons over the age of 65 years, and play valuable roles within their families and communities as caregivers, accounting for up to 95 per cent of all care needs1. While these are invaluable contributions to societies and nations, there are insufficient protections for caregivers working formally or informally to balance the emotional, financial, and physical impacts of caregiving.
The Academy Award-nominated film, The Father, gives viewers the opportunity to explore and perhaps better understand the impact of cognitive decline on informal caregivers, oftentimes family members, and on those living with Alzheimer Disease.
The movie, in which Sir Anthony Hopkins plays an octogenarian living with dementia, explores the difficulties in navigating familial impact of family caregiving, both on the father-daughter relationship, and on her “fraying marriage” as described in this New York Times review. However, it also sheds light on the difficulties in caring professionally for persons experiencing cognitive decline.
Perhaps as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-standing under-appreciation of the caregiving profession is receiving well-deserved policy attention. In a recent CNN opinion piece, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union, report that “care jobs remain undervalued, understaffed, under protected and underpaid.”
“Everyone who needs care deserves to live with dignity in the setting of their choice, supported by a workforce that is respected, protected and paid for the essential care they provide”
This article argues that the under-valuing of caregiving work is directly linked to racism and sexism, with the vast majority of formal caregivers comprising women (86 per cent) and people of colour (59 per cent). The consequence of these forms of discrimination is low wages, a lack of benefits, insufficient training and inadequate funding for a workforce traditionally devalued as “unskilled labour.”
The shameful and appalling impact of the coronavirus on the long-term care sector is often incorrectly characterized as taking place within institutional facilities. However, long-term care also includes services in the home and community, which deserves an equal consideration of standards of care, staffing, safety and investment by decision-makers, taking into account the essential contributions of family and staff.
Within the context of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, long-term care is one of four action areas requiring concerted attention as population ageing, migration and urbanization converge. The IFA’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing represents a critical point of connection for all those advocating for the rights of older people, with a conference theme dedicated to deliberating issues within long-term care.
If you are a journalist covering this topic – then let the experts help with your stories.
- Dr. Amy D’Aprix, Founder of Life Transitions by Dr. Amy
- Dr. Sytse Zuidema, Professor of Elderly Care Medicine and Dementia at the University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands
Experts are available to speak with media about caregiving, long-term care, healthy ageing, and cognitive decline – simply click on either expert’s icon to arrange an interview today.
1United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. (2020). UNECE issues recommendations on gender equality in ageing societies. Available at: https://bit.ly/3jjRr1l
Dr. Amy D'Aprix Founder - Life Transitions by Dr. Amy
Our vision is to change the way people think, talk and act when navigating life transitions, particularly in their last third of life.
Dr. Sytse Zuidema Professor of Elderly Care Medicine and Dementia
Prof Sytse Zuidema is Professor of Elderly Care Medicine and Dementia at University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)