Home caregiver helping senior woman walking at home
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A multi-year collaboration aims to strengthen the relationship between direct care workers and family caregivers by drawing attention to policy barriers, research needs and workforce initiatives.

PHI and the National Alliance for Caregiving unveiled the Direct Care Worker and Family Caregiver Initiative on Thursday. Its aim is to elevate the relationship between professional and family caregivers to create a more sustainable long-term care system. 

Those two caregiver groups typically are not formally integrated into care teams, often resulting in miscommunication, missed collaboration opportunities and poor care outcomes, the collaborators said, adding that lack of communication between the two groups also can lead to differing perspectives and expectations.

The initiative is the byproduct of a national advisory group of experts, including researchers, policymakers and practitioners, convened by the two partners.

Funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation, the initiative will focus on key policy areas that include integrating direct care workers and family caregivers into interdisciplinary care teams, expanding access to consumer direction programs to compensate daily caregivers, strengthening matching service registries to connect families with paid caregivers, and investing in new research on the dynamics between direct care workers and family caregivers to develop targeted interventions and policies.

The direct care workforce is expected to add 1 million new jobs from 2021 to 2031, more than any other single occupation in the nation, according to PHI. That figure jumps to 9.3 million total job openings in direct care when accounting for jobs that must be filled when existing workers transfer to other occupations or exit the workforce. This job growth will occur primarily in the home- and community-based services sector, with the home care and residential care workforces.

“Together, direct care workers and family caregivers form the backbone of our long-term care system, providing essential support to millions of older adults and people with disabilities,” PHI President and CEO Jodi M. Sturgeon said in a statement. “Their critical connection frequently goes unrecognized, which hinders the full potential of this partnership in providing high-quality, person-centered care.”

Those challenges complicate the caregiving landscape and can amplify the emotional, physical and financial strain of caregivers on both sides, leading to burnout and high turnover rates among direct care workers, as well as diminished health and well-being for both groups, according to National Alliance for Caregiving President and CEO Jason Resendez. 

The initiative follows last fall’s release of the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers — the first national strategy to support family caregivers, as well as address professional caregiver education, training and compensation — by the US Department of Health and Human Services, through its Administration for Community Living. The strategy also called for establishing a pipeline of long-term care workers and reforming the LTSS system.

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