By Emily Vazquez, VP of Operations, CareOne
According to the World Health Organization, the number of U.S. adults aged 65 and older is projected to more than double by 2060, precipitating a dramatic global demographic shift. Research shows that more than two-thirds of the population will need assistance with at least some tasks as they age. More than half will need paid long-term services and support.
As demand for senior care increases, however, the U.S. is expected to face a caregiver shortage. Those over 65 are projected to outnumber children aged 18 and under by 2035 – portending a shortfall in unpaid family caregivers, who represent an estimated $600 billion in economic value. The care workforce is not growing fast enough to make up for that deficit – and in fact, growth is stagnating. By 2040, the national caregiver shortage will reach 355,000 individuals, the United Disabilities Services Foundation predicts.
To meet the needs of our growing aging population and their families, the senior care industry will need to evolve in the following ways:
- Embrace technology: The senior care industry must adopt and integrate new technologies to improve the efficiency and quality of care provided. Many facilities are adopting digital solutions to solve resourcing challenges and enable staff to focus on what matters most: caring for people. For example, at CareOne, we’re implementing automated medication dispensing systems from Advanced Pharmacy Solutions to reduce the time our nurses spend on medication distribution while ensuring our residents receive timely prescriptions. Additionally, next-generation medical applications like telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are enabling senior patients to shorten their stays at rehab facilities.
- Value the care profession: The pandemic showed us that healthcare workers and other senior care workers are heroes – and they should be valued as such. Professional caregiving is a noble and rewarding career, but it can also be physically and emotionally demanding. Creating a supportive work environment that acknowledges and appreciates the challenges of caregiving can help reduce burnout and increase job satisfaction. Continuous training and development opportunities not only enhance the quality of care, but they also provide opportunities for advancement that increase the appeal of caregiving as a long-term career.
- Promote interdisciplinary collaboration: Interdisciplinary collaboration among healthcare professionals and across the healthcare ecosystem is key to addressing seniors’ complex physical, emotional and social needs. By fostering seamless communication and coordination, healthcare providers can share vital patient information, including medical history, treatment plans and progress updates. This integrated approach fosters the development of personalized care plans and allows for the efficient allocation of resources, thereby improving patient outcomes and reducing the risk of hospital readmissions. Ultimately, a well-coordinated healthcare ecosystem promotes a smoother transition for seniors as they navigate the different stages of their care journey.
- Foster community-based care: Establishing partnerships with schools, community organizations and businesses can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for seniors. These partnerships facilitate strong social connections, helping seniors combat the feelings of isolation and loneliness that often accompany aging. Moreover, collaborating with local resources can lead to innovative programs and initiatives that enrich the lives of seniors and enhance their well-being. For example, at CareOne, we have a partnership with Columbia University to nurture healthcare innovation among young entrepreneurs.
- Support family caregivers: Family caregivers play a vital role in the physical, emotional and mental well-being of our aging population. However, the demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and lead to burnout. Supporting family caregivers is a collective responsibility that involves collaboration among various stakeholders, including government agencies, healthcare providers and community organizations. This can involve offering respite care services, support groups and educational programs to empower them with the knowledge and skills they need to provide effective care. By acknowledging their invaluable contributions and addressing their needs, we can create a more sustainable caregiving environment for both caregivers and the aging population.
By adapting to the changing needs of the aging population, the senior care industry can ensure that seniors receive the support and care they need to maintain their health, independence and quality of life.