DURHAM — How do we ensure that a growing population of aging Americans live their final years with dignity, and how do we adequately support the caregivers who secure that dignity?
New Hampshire PBS, in partnership with the Endowment for Health,explores these questions in the upcoming program Call to Care NH, premiering Thursday, October 26 at 8:30 pm.
The program is being presented as a companion to the national documentary America Reframed: CARE, airing at 7:30 pm on NHPBS. The evening will focus on the relationships between paid caregivers and their clients, withCall to Care NH exploring the unique challenges they face in New Hampshire.
Northern New England has the oldest population by median age in the country and a rural geography that can leave individuals isolated from their communities.
“One in five NH residents will be over the age of 65 by 2020,” says Kelly LaFlamme, Endowment for Health program director. “Paid caregivers are a critical support to healthy aging.”
The caregivers featured in Call to Care NH are deeply committed to their careers. Home health aide Peggy Drouin began caring for her elderly neighbors when she was just eight. Roger Maurier decided to become a professional caregiver while looking for a passion to pursue in retirement.
LaFlamme says, “Paid caregiving is rewarding work but more needs to be done to ensure that this professional calling is valued, fairly compensated and supported.”
The program follows home health aides and nursing assistants in elder care facilities, chronicling the strenuous physical and emotional requirements of the job. Despite the intimate and essential nature of the work, median salary for a home health aide is just $21,920 a year, about $12 an hour.
As producer Phil Vaughn notes, “So many people depend on paid caregivers to help increase the quality of life for loved ones or themselves, yet they receive slightly more than minimum wage.”
LaFlamme concurs, “Low wages caused by low reimbursement rates and other factors make it difficult for dedicated paid caregivers to make a living doing a job they love.”
Currently, demand for professional caregivers far exceeds supply. Home Health Aide is the most in demand job in New Hampshire and across the country. Federal labor statistics project a 38% growth in the field by 2024.
According to America Reframed: CARE director Deirdre Fishel, “Elder care has been seen mostly as a private, family matter. But it is a societal issue that will affect all of us, regardless of race, geographical location, or even party affiliation.”
As Call to Care NH investigates these challenges, it will bring together an in-studio panel of professionals to discuss possible solutions to the problems facing the field. While the needs of an aging baby boom generation present a potential elder care crisis, it may also provide the momentum needed to institute positive changes for caregivers, patients and their families.
About New Hampshire PBS: New Hampshire PBS inspires one million Granite Staters each month with engaging and trusted local and national programs and services on-air, online, via mobile, in classrooms and in communities. Beyond its award-winning television programs, New Hampshire PBS is a leader in education and community engagement. www.nhpbs.org
About Endowment for Health: The Endowment for Health works to improve the health and reduce the burden of illness for the people of New Hampshire – especially the vulnerable and underserved. Since 2001, the Endowment has awarded more than 1,200 grants totaling more than $47 million to support a wide range of health-related projects in New Hampshire. For more information about the Endowment for Health, visit www.endowmentforhealth.org
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