End of Life Care: Preparing The Eldercare Workforce
To meet the needs of our aging population, the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) advocates for public policies that support programs such as the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP). GWEP, the only federal program designed to increase the number of providers in a variety of disciplines with the education and training to care for older adults, currently trains health care professionals and students, direct care workers, and family caregivers in 29 states. EWA has also advocated for public policies that support family caregivers and has been a leading advocate for wages and training for the direct care workforce. The Alliance strives to ensure that our health care workforce is an eldercare workforce with the skills and knowledge needed to support all of us in remaining active in our homes and communities.
EWA believes that realizing this goal of an eldercare workforce also means ensuring that the workforce is prepared to support all of us at the end of life. Similar to health providers specializing in geriatrics and gerontology, providers specializing in palliative care (care that optimizes quality of life by preventing and relieving suffering associated with a serious illness)[i] remain in short supply.[ii],[iii],[iv] This issue brief presents some of the ways geriatrics, gerontological, and palliative care training can strengthen the entire workforce’s capacity to provide high-quality end-of-life care for older adults.
[i] Please refer to the National Consensus Project’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care (3rd ed., 2014, p. 9) for a comprehensive definition of palliative care: https://www.nationalcoalitionhpc.org/ncp-guidelines-2013/
[ii] “Recommendations to the Administration for End-of-Life Care,” letter to Tom Price, MD and David Shulkin, MD, February 21, 2017, Pew Charitable Trusts, 6, http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2017/02/recommendations-to-the-administration.pdf.
[iii] IOM, Dying in America, 102.
[iv] IOM, Retooling, 217.