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University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

December 7, 2000 Contact: Sharon Butler (312) 355-2522; sbutler@uic.edu


Anticipated shortage of caregivers as the elderly population grows

National leaders concerned with the future of the health care labor force met last month to debate statistics showing that the number of elderly people needing long-term care is surging while the number of people available for providing care is falling.

Data presented at the Nov. 14 meeting of the Health Care Labor Force, chaired by former labor secretary Lynn Martin and convened by the Nursing Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing, demonstrated anticipated shortages of health care workers-largely nurses aides and licensed practical nurses who provide or oversee daily care either in long-term care facilities or at home.

By 2020, as many as 14 million elderly people will need long-term care-double the number who need it today, according to one report. But trends in the health care labor force suggest that their needs cannot be met. Shortages of health care workers are already evident and turnover is high because of unappealing working conditions that make recruitment and retention of staff difficult. Moreover, the pool of potential workers (those aged 21 to 65) is shrinking. In 1980, there were 12.5 people in this age bracket for every individual aged 75 or older; in 2025, there will be only 6.5.

"Technology is not going to solve this problem," said Mary Jo Snyder, director of the Nursing Institute. "Caregiving requires hands-on labor to manage chronic conditions and assist in daily activities like bathing, toileting and feeding."

The panel, which will meet once more in February before concluding its deliberations, expects to issue a report on its findings in April, drawing national attention to the inadequacies of the health care labor force as the population ages. The panel had its first meeting in September.

Panel members represent varying viewpoints from academia, the health care industry and the nonprofit sector. In addition to Martin, the members are: Edwin Artzt, chairman emeritus of Proctor and Gamble; Paul Booth, assistant to the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; former senator Bill Bradley; Richard Corlin, president-elect of the American Medical Association; Mary Kathryn James, president of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses; Richard Kaplan, professor of law at the University of Illinois; Leslie Margolin, senior vice president for workforce development at Kaiser Permanente; Kweisi Mfume, executive director of the NAACP; Abner Mikva, professor of law at the University of Chicago; Len Nichols, principal research associate at the Urban Institute; Reverend Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States; Sara Rix, senior policy adviser at the American Association of Retired Persons; Jim Smith, senior economist at Rand Corporation; and Louis Sullivan, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine. Joan Shaver, dean of the UIC College of Nursing, is the convener.

The Nursing Institute at the UIC College of Nursing, one of the top 10 nursing schools in the country, focuses on health care issues, including the labor force, health care delivery, practice and professional development.

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