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Are We (Finally) at a "Cultural Tipping Point" on Caregiving?

Last updated:

December 22, 2011
Tipping Point

Family caregivers -- 65 million strong and still operating in the shadows of society. Or are we finally entering its spotlight? The retired Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman believes we've arrived at a cultural tipping point regarding caregiving, and pioneering "The New Old Age" columnist Jane Gross of the New York Times says she's inclined to agree.

Gross lists some ways a fresh light is being shone on caregiving:

  • Goodman is working with the Conversation Project, an endeavor at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, to turn caregiving into a "kitchen table issue" for everyone, not just policy wonks and healthcare professionals. It's unclear how, although she has a January 26, 2012, webcast planned and an article in the "12 Audacious Ideas" issue of an upcoming Harvard Business Review.

  • The Center on Elder Care and Advanced Illness at the Altarum Institute is putting together a roundtable of high-profile feminists such as Goodman, Susan Jacoby, and Eleanor Clift "to give voice to the frustrations we know all too well."

  • Bill Novelli, who once headed AARP, has launched the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) in order to "empower consumers" and to push for "delivery system and policy changes."

  • The New York City Bar Association is sponsoring a series of forums to encourage professionals to take a more active role in helping clients prepare for the future.

Actually, none of this (as described) sounds particularly new. What sounds a bit fresher is the rhetoric being attached to the problems of caregivers, which both Goodman and Gross describe as a "women's issue":

Gross: "Boomer women changed the world for themselves and those who followed at each stage of life "” and now they have fallen silent."

Goodman: "This has to be a social movement. And the first step in a social movement is changing norms from not talking to talking.''

So more and more people are talking about caregiving. Who's listening?