What if Universities Added a Masters Program in Caregiving?

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What if Universities Added a Masters Program in Caregiving?

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I wrote last week about a presentation about caregiving I gave to graduate students in the social work program at the University of Chicago. (Read Containing the Bothersome.)

My colleague who teaches the course for future social workers called me yesterday to share that each student has decided to switch their focus to issues that family caregivers face. "Because of what you shared," my colleague explained, "these students want to make a difference."

Earlier this year, I gave a presentation to social work students at Loyola University. After the class, the professor shared how little information about the caregiving experience her students receive -- just about a page in one of their course books. (Many years ago, a university did include my stages of caregiving in its curriculum for gerontology students.)

What if a school of social work added a specialty in caregiving issues? In my experience, most masters-level social work programs include some discussion of caregiving experience in their older adults or gerontology specialities. The problem, of course, is that family caregivers often aren't older adults and our carees may not be older adults. With a special focus on just family caregivers (of any age for any family member with any disease or disability), a university could educate its students to make a huge difference in supporting and serving family caregivers through policy and program development.

Imagine what could grow from an army of social workers who studied caregiving issues and who found employment in workplaces, hospitals, health systems and community programs. We'd have a pool of highly-trained specialists ready to implement programs and services which can make a difference.

In addition, those systems (the workplace, hospitals, health systems and community programs) would look at caregiving differently because it's an experience that requires a masters level degree to understand.  When our experience is elevated, so are the services and support we receive.

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