Reporter Carmen Duarte explored a much overlooked issue that has already reached crisis proportions. The headline to her Feb. 10 story cuts to the chase: U.S., Arizona face major shortage of in-home caregivers.
Duarte gets it right as anybody with a family member suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, dementia or another long-term debilitation can attest. Help is hard to find and it is very, very expensive.
When my father experienced an eight-year descent into what a neurologist diagnosed as “advanced Lewy body disease,” then fell, broke his hip and required 24-hour care for the rest of his years, my family learned a lot about caregiving. Finding caregivers became a never-ending challenge that got progressively harder over the years.
As Duarte’s reporting has it, 41,000 new caregiving jobs are expected to open over the next seven years. These crucial home- care workers in Arizona — including personal-care aides and home health aides — assist the elderly and physically disabled in their homes.
What her article doesn’t directly address, although she notes that 1 in 4 caregivers are immigrants, is the key linkage of the caregiving issue to border and immigration policy.
Professor Dowell Myers, in his book “Immigrants and Boomers,” makes that connection explicit. Myers says that rapidly graying white America will require caregivers in unprecedented numbers, with immigrants the logical (and perhaps only) population capable of meeting the generational need.
In this regard, he says, “Demographics is destiny.”
Of course this wouldn’t be the first time that immigrant workers responded to a national need. Consider mining, construction, field work, hospitality (including President Trump’s properties), landscaping, entrepreneurial startups and information technology.
I thought of Myers’ book while watching a live stream of Steve Bannon and two politicians, Kris Kobach and Tom Tancredo (both losers in recent elections), trying to stoke the immigration-related fears of a mostly elderly white audience assembled in the Quail Creek Country Club (part of a Robson community in Sahuarita). The purpose of the event was to raise money for a privately funded wall between the USA and Mexico. Pleas were made to the audience for dollars to build a tiny wall section on private land allegedly made available for that purpose.
During the course of the event no one jumped up to ask Mr. Bannon or his associates questions about the pressing need for an immigrant caregiving workforce.
No one cited the demographics of desperation that will certainly impact a substantial number of those present and thousands more in Robson developments like it throughout Arizona.
No one took a moment to ponder the life circumstances of the triple amputee vet who served as Bannon’s poster child on the panel.
Steve Bannon offered the Quail Creek crowd a bevy of oft-debunked fictions to justify his pleas for private wall money.
Dowell Myers advances real numbers to justify a fresh approach to immigration policy. In calling for a new social contract Myers writes that the needs of elderly white people (and others) for caregiving and much younger immigrants for meaningful work match up well.
Myers offers prospects for a cross generational negotiation built on mutual self interests.
Hopefully Bannon’s (and Trump’s) aging acolytes will wake up to the potential of a win-win politics while they and the nation as a whole still stand to benefit. The same could be said of politicians on both sides of the aisle.