A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association predicts a worsening shortage of family and professional caregivers in Iowa as more people are diagnosed — and more caregivers quit.

Iowa chapter spokeswoman Lauren Livingston says there’s already a high demand for direct care workers, which includes nurse aides, nursing assistants and home health aides. She says they play a vital role in caring for people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

“By 2030 nationwide, we’ll need over a million more of these direct care workers, and in Iowa, we’ll need to see an increase of over 30%, so that’s pretty staggering,” Livingston says. “And on top of that, these jobs are really hard and they don’t pay very well, so there’s a really high turnover rate, too.” She notes the median pay for these workers in Iowa is a little over  $14 an hour. Also, many tens of thousands of Iowans are getting no pay as they’re caring for a parent or other loved one.

“There are 98,000 unpaid family caregivers, so those are loved ones caring for people that are living at home with them with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Livingston says, “and they are providing an estimated 125-million hours of unpaid care valued at over $2.2 billion.”

Potential solutions to the looming shortage include getting better training for caregivers so they can better handle the rigors of the job, and mandated higher pay rates. The report says family caregivers in Iowa face significant emotional, physical and health-related challenges as a result of caregiving.

“These dementia family caregivers are putting in so much time that’s really taking a toll on their well-being and their mental and physical health,” she says, “on top of the health of their loved one living with dementia.” Sixty-percent of Iowa caregivers report having at least one chronic condition, 27% report depression, 59% report high-to-very-high emotional stress due to caregiving, and 38% report high-to-very-high physical stress.

According to the report, there are  6.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, including 66,000 Iowans. See the full report at: alz.org/facts

Radio Iowa