Time flies.

One of the famous challenges with Barbie dolls is that, sometimes, small girls get so caught up in choosing Barbie’s clothes that Barbie never actually does anything. 

Maybe the Barbie wardrobe trap is a symptom of confusion and anxiety. Dithering about what Barbie should wear is a lot easier than deciding what kind of adventure she should have, or how that adventure should proceed.

I’ve been looking at various websites related to long-term care (LTC) and caregiving in the past few days and, to me, it looks as if a lot of LTC organizations got caught up in their own high-class, grownup version of the Barbie wardrobe trap. Someone gave them some money (not enough, but some) to “try to do something about the Silver Tsunami.”

The go-getters used the money to update what were already pretty good survey numbers giving the number of people with dementia (many), the total number of people getting formal and informal LTC services (many), the number of unpaid caregivers (many), and the approximate level of desperation of the family caregivers (somewhere between “jumping out of their skin” and “jumped out of their skin a long time ago”). 

It seems as if more of the groups used the money to create websites or “support programs,” in many different languages, to steer family caregivers to “resources.” In other words: Toll-free number for a half-broke program that shut down its waiting list five years ago. 

Even the lists of academic research programs seem unambitious. Of course, society should be telling us to eat right, drink alcohol in moderation and avoid getting conked on the head, but I’m not sure sponsoring academic studies of that sort of thing is the best use of dementia academic research money.

As for financing proposals, they seem to boil down to “let’s pretend private long-term care insurance isn’t there” and “the government should do something.”

My sense is that, if interest rates were 5 percentage points higher, the private LTCI issuers could pay a small team at LIMRA or AHIP to replicate all of that work in about a month and have money left over for a nice presentation luncheon. 

Meanwhile, as we change Barbie’s outfit for the 300th time, the clock is ticking.