What we found digging into an elder care landscape rocked by the pandemic

Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group

By Emily DeRuy Center for Health Journalism December 23, 2021


This post outlines initial insights into how problems with elder care in CA were spotlit by the pandemic and the Center for Health Journalism approach to covering the issue via direct person interviews. The reportage investigates the lives of seniors and their families in context of the existing political landscape and the need for major reforms (such as AB 1400) to address the large challenges facing the state.

There is no elder care system in California. Instead, there is a patchwork of options. And because, with limited exceptions, we don’t dedicate public funds to long-term daily care, many options are wildly out of reach to families without significant resources.  

The COVID-19 pandemic made all of this abundantly clear, and showed just how fragile the existing options are, from assisted living homes overrun by infectious disease to at-home care delivered by underpaid workers who were not prioritized for protective gear when the pandemic hit.

While we may not have another pandemic like the one that has gripped the world for the last two years in our lifetime, we felt it was important to explore the problems it exposed in our elder care system — problems that, in many cases, were decades old and will not be solved anytime soon. 

We focused on elder care in part because seniors make up a growing proportion of California’s overall population. About 16% of our state is over 65, up from just 9% in 1970.

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