I am preparing to do a keynote for the first ever National Alliance For Direct Support Professionals Conference (www NADSP.org) on May 31 in Louisville KY and in doing my research, have been stunned by the magnitude of the need in our country (and around the world) for direct support care.
Now I have worked in direct care, and my agency, www.classcommunity.org has been providing direct support to people with disabilities for as long as I have been associated, some 44 years. And on a personal note, I have also been involved in the direct support of family members, especially in the last 10 years supporting parents and relatives. There is no question how challenging this work is, but there is also no denying how critical it is in our society.
As we age, and as disabilities unfold, people need support and care. Certainly, anyone reading this blog, when reflecting, wants to grow old in their own home, and be supported to stay involved in aspects of community and family. Yet, the odds are you will need a caregiver as you try to live out this dream. Who will that be?
In looking at some of the data, there are over 12 million citizens in the US who need direct support. By 2050 this number will be over 27 million. Today there are 65.7 million Americans who provide direct care. Economic estimates suggest long term care, either at home or in a facility is valued at $450 billion per year.
Any way you cut the cards, there is an imaparative and challenge in our society. Everyday there are more people added to the direct support need pool, yet the reimbursements and investments necessary have fallen behind. Today, most direct support professionals are paid at, or below minimal wage. In many cases, direct support resources are not available and the challenge falls to family and relatives to do the everyday supports. This is a train wreck looking to happen.
We need a viable national policy and priority on this issue. We need to recognize that the persons being supported by these professionals are our moms, dads, brothers, and sisters. We must understand that dignity and community opportunities need to be afforded to all people, even the most vulnerable, and that when we are cut off from our communities, this isolation is tantamount to death.
So have you thought about your own long term care needs? Have you begun to plan for how you will be cared for when the time comes? Do you have the foresight to recognize, that this challenge must be addressed now. Tomorrow might be too late.
Learn more at www.nadsp.org.