Susan Reinhard’s advice for reforming eldercare is a lot like the Nike slogan: Just do it.
Reinhard, director of the AARP Public Policy Institute, recently added her knowledgeable voice to calls on how to reform eldercare during a recent episode of the “Elevate Eldercare” podcast. She told Green House Project senior director Susan Ryan that targeting policymakers and elected officials – helping them to understand and implement practical, scalable solutions – is the best way to move the eldercare reform conversation forward in divisive times.
A nurse, educator, researcher, and policy expert, Reinhard knows her way around the eldercare landscape. Through her work at AARP, Reinhard strives to make complicated policy priorities and research digestible and understandable to everyone. Reinhard believes eldercare advocates must focus on educating and supporting legislators. There are lots of choices and opportunities to change institutional care out there and there will always be resistance, she says. The next step is to gather data, be proactive, tell our story, and stop the negativity.
A positive mindset, grit, and determination are essential elements to bring about eldercare reform, she said. So are effective communication and planning that balances – but doesn’t stifle – innovation or impede existing regulations. There are lots of workable options for change available such as the Green House model. Now is the time to get that important message out to the public, Reinhard said.
Obviously, any discussion on reform must include workforce infrastructure. Currently, the eldercare workforce is underpaid, disrespected, and devalued, Reinhard said. We must change cultural perceptions, recognize the complexity and responsibility that working with elders requires, and upgrade the overall status of caregivers. Eldercare professionals must be offered stable jobs with good pay and benefits, respect, opportunities for continuing education and growth, and a clear career ladder, she said.
The role of family can also be expanded and advanced. Family caregivers are an important yet overlooked part of the equation, Reinhard says. She believes home care will be the gold standard, but family caregivers need more support and training. That assistance will better equip them to care for loved ones as they age in familiar and beloved surroundings.
Reinhard’s levelheaded advice to reframe the discussion positively and productively resonates with The Green House Project on numerous levels. Let’s seize this moment to put aside differences, unite and make our voices heard in state houses and other community forums around the country to bring about change that benefits elders, their families, and caregivers.
Listen to the Elevate Eldercare podcast on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, or via The Green House Project’s website, www.thegreenhouseproject.org/podcast.