Today there are half a million Iowans providing unpaid caregiving services to Iowa’s increasingly older population. While that certainly demonstrates the overwhelming generosity of Iowans and our commitment to put family first, it also reveals a growing population who may not be able to participate in the economy as fully as they would want. The result is reduced personal income and diminished savings for the individual plus slower economic growth and persistent workforce shortages for the state.
Part of what is driving this trend is the mismanagement and misplaced priorities of Governor Kim Reynolds. Through a series of reckless decisions, Governor Reynolds and her administration have left older Iowans more vulnerable and with far fewer services than at any point in recent memory. This has dramatically increased the private caregiving needs in the state and forced many Iowans to take on these responsibilities rather than see a loved one fall through the cracks.
Funding cuts for the Department on Aging and the Area Agencies on Aging have created waiting lists for critical services such as home delivered meals. Similar funding cuts for the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman have eliminated essential investigations into nursing home conditions and prevented state officials from examining serious complaints. The privatization of Medicaid has created a new, complicated bureaucracy where legitimate health care needs are denied, delayed, or ignored.
Facing all this, it is no wonder that an Iowan would choose to take on new caregiving responsibilities to spare their mother or father a potentially dangerous and unregulated situation. Of course, making that choice often requires reducing the hours they dedicate to their jobs or the difficult choice to leave that job altogether. As a state, we should not force our neighbors to make these types of impossible decisions. Iowa can do better and that is one of the reasons I am running for governor.
Here's where we start.
We need to expand critical services and oversight necessary to ensure the highest quality of care for our older citizens across all of our communities. Enabling older Iowans to remain in their homes as long as feasible for a better quality of life should be our priority. High-tech monitoring systems can help seniors age in place independently, while giving family members peace of mind in the process. What’s more, home-based tech tools could be far less expensive than moving into assisted living facilities or nursing homes.
We need to directly address the growing crisis in our long-term care workforce. The lack of home care aides, certified nurse aides, and personal care attendants are undermining the quality of care Iowans receive. Iowa simply cannot afford to continue experiencing the 60% turnover in this workforce every year. Direct care workers must be able to earn a living wage. These are too often low paying jobs resulting in challenges not only in providing for older Iowans but also in workers’ ability to support their own family. Childcare benefits often evaporate as wages go up forcing these Iowans to choose between continuing to work or providing the necessary care for a child. As governor, I will fight to ensure no Iowan has to make that decision.
Growing Iowa’s economy requires innovative solutions across the board. We have the opportunity today to make smart, long-term investments to care for our aging population and at the same time unlock new economic opportunities for all Iowans across all 99 counties.