Marcus Escobedo, MPA,
SR. Program Officer & Communications Director
The John A. Hartford Foundation
EWA would not exist without the original and ongoing support from The John A. Hartford Foundation. Following the release of Retooling for an Aging America, JAHF supported the establishment of EWAs coalition over ten years ago. Why did you initiate and continue to support this important coalition?
The John A. Hartford Foundation proudly supported the Retooling for an Aging America study, but recognized that a report alone is not enough to change policy. Addressing the critical need for a better prepared workforce for older adults required action. We needed committed individuals and organizations to engage in advocacy, and we knew from prior experience that the most powerful advocacy comes from coalitions of diverse stakeholders. Policymakers can easily to dismiss a single profession as being self-interested, but an interprofessional alliance that includes patient and family organizations is incredibly powerful. When the Eldercare Workforce Alliance was proposed as a coalition of nurses, social workers, physicians, labor unions, family caregiver groups, and more, we knew we had a winning combination.
EWAs success is in large part due to the JAHF’s financial assistance and facilitated collaborations across a variety of aging organizations. What do you see as some of the most important accomplishments EWA has achieved in the last ten years?
EWA has been a critical voice for the workforce that cares for all of us as we age. This unique coalition develops consensus policy by collaborating with the entire care team. EWA has advanced important policy solutions and models of care that help the care team provide quality, person and family centered care. Over the last decade, EWA has been instrumental in preventing cuts in the limited funding available for geriatrics training programs, promoting better jobs and wages for direct care workers, and increasing attention to the needs of family caregivers as a critical component of the eldercare workforce. EWA urged the Department of Labor and won recognition under the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure minimum wage and overtime protections for direct care workers. EWA is the leader on advocacy efforts for the only geriatrics workforce training program appropriations and authorizing legislation. Most recently, the Alliance worked with Senators Collins and Casey to introduce the bipartisan Senate bill to reauthorize the geriatrics workforce programs in Congress. Other accomplishments include advocating for the RAISE Family Caregivers Act legislation that became law in 2018. EWA will continue to work to develop a national plan to address the needs of family caregivers as an advisory council on family caregiving under Health and Humans Services is developed.
JAHFs priorities areas – all have an important workforce component to them. In what ways has EWA contributed to these priorities?
The John A. Hartford Foundation is dedicated to improving the care of older adults by creating age-friendly health systems, supporting family caregivers, and improving serious illness and end-of-life care. EWA has contributed to all of these areas. Most recently EWA’s advocacy for the HRSA-funded Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) led to continued and even increased federal funding for the GWEP sites. Even better, HRSA built in the principles of age-friendly care (known as the 4Ms, what Matters, Medication, Mentation, and Mobility) into the federal program. EWA was also a powerful advocate for passage of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act. We are now building on that federal legislation to create a national strategy to support caregivers and are currently exploring a private-partnership to support implementation of that important law. EWA recently released an issue brief on the workforce needed to care for older adults facing serious illness. Finally, EWA provides a platform for us to disseminate our programs and information, and in turn, the EWA helps keep us abreast of the incredible work being done by its members in our three priority areas so that we can promote and amplify it.
Looking forward, what do you see as the most important challenges EWA needs to address in the next ten years?
The most important challenges over the next ten years will include:
- Workforce shortages amongst the entire care team, including geriatrics-trained professionals and direct care workers
- How can technology support the needs of older adults health care as well as the workforce that cares for them
- Addressing the different care needs in urban and rural settings and finding ways of supporting both
- Connecting care to social determinants of health for older adults including social isolation, transportation, nutrition, housing, and many more
- Empowering frontline staff to care for older adults through better training, wages, and job ladders
- Support of family caregivers will become more important than ever as we have more older adults living longer with uncertain long-term care financing and care
- Last, but certainly not least, reaching more funders to support the terrific work of EWA!
What are some of the other JAHF projects that are focused on the eldercare workforce?
Our age-friendly health systems initiative is very much about preparing a workforce in the basics of the 4Ms. Our Geriatric ED, Geriatric surgery, and home based primary care initiatives focus on training and education of teams in these settings. JAHF projects cross pollinate through EWA’s membership. Both of us collaborate with the n4a, GWEP Coordinating Center, Community Catalyst, Diverse Elders Coalition, National PACE Association, and many others where workforce issues are integral to addressing the needs of core constituencies. Through EWA’s past two webinars focused on JAHF projects like an Age-Friendly Workforce, and Care Coordination with PACE 2.0, JAHF has worked with EWA to educate the community on these important projects.