"The pay scale [for home health aides] is also relatively low, and they don't have health care benefits, on top of that," Chin added.
Wage issues are keeping the number of geriatricians at an all-time low, as well. Geriatricians are crucial, the experts said, because they look not at a particular disease or body site, but at the older person as a whole. However, a recent U.S. Institute of Medicine report found that geriatricians remain the lowest paid medical specialty of all.
Boosting the number of geriatricians, nurses and well-trained home health care aides will be a top priority in easing the eldercare "squeeze," the experts agreed. The same can be said for recent moves by government and medical institutions to cut down on red tape and better coordinate care, especially between the hospital and home.
In the meantime, aging Americans should plan wisely, especially since resources vary widely state by state.
"Friends will call and tell me, 'My mother's moving to South Carolina.' I often tell them 'Well, you better check out what's available,' " said Pat Ford-Roegner, CEO of the American Academy of Nursing. "Ask what services are available for long-term care. But, people just aren't thinking that way."
One good resource: The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (www.n4a.org), found in every state, can give details on what's available to you locally.
It also pays to think about how you will pay for long-term care, since Medicaid only kicks in after personal finances are exhausted -- something Raphael labeled "a policy of pauperization."
In the end, it will be middle-income Americans who feel the squeeze most, according to Sheehy, who is currently writing a book about her care-giving experience.
"For people who are very wealthy, if the family cares about
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