Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. was appointed president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in January 2014. Prior to that, Fuschillo served eight terms as a New York state senator, where he was a member of numerous committees including health. Prior to that, Fuschillo was chief operating officer of a nonprofit family service agency serving Long Island and New York City.
Why is the training of the health care workforce to care for older adults so important?
Currently, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to triple by mid-century. Today’s eldercare workforce is not equipped to handle this staggering growth. There is a shortage of professionals trained specifically in dementia care and family caregivers often don’t have the supports and services they need to care for loved ones at home. A trained workforce is critical to maintaining and improving quality of life for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses and their families.
What is Alzheimer’s Foundation of America mission?
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) unites more than 2,400 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. In addition to professional training, AFA’s services include a national toll-free helpline staffed by licensed social workers, educational materials, and a free quarterly magazine for caregivers.
How did you decide to work in the aging field?
Our Board Chairman, Bert E. Brodsky, founded AFA more than a decade ago. His mother lived with Alzheimer’s disease from 1980 until 1992. At the time, no one understood the disease; no one knew how to deal with it. After her passing, Mr. Brodsky was eager to get involved—to help other families living with this disease. He wanted to give them what he and his family did not have—education and support to help them understand what was happening to their loved one and to help them respond with patience and compassion.
I’ve had several close friends whose parents battled Alzheimer’s disease. I saw firsthand the heartache, stress and anxiety the disease brought to their lives. And so when Mr. Brodsky approached me about joining AFA, naturally, I was drawn to the position. Today, I am committed to helping to improve the lives of individuals and families living with this disease.
What services does the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provide to address this need?
To address the need for a skilled workforce, AFA provides professional training through its Dementia Care Professionals of America (DCPA) division. Our training program is rooted in the philosophy of person-centered care and the importance of building relationships among care professionals, individuals with the disease and their families.
Our latest training offering will be released later this summer, initially as a DVD and later online, in an effort to make dementia-specific training more accessible to healthcare professionals and students.
What do you see as the future of the elder care workforce?
I see this as a pivotal time to invest in and invigorate the eldercare workforce. I think eldercare organizations must get out and educate the public—entice current and future students to pursue careers in eldercare, advocate for special training of professionals charged with caring for our elders and raise awareness of why training is so important. That is why coalitions such as the Eldercare Workforce Alliance are critical—they keep aging and eldercare top-of-mind.