How can caring for the elderly be better work and work better?

Our future eldercare world -- too many of us, not enough trained workers.  One might want to argue with whether the current ratio is adequate, but as presented in the most recent journal of the American Society on Aging (ASA), Generations, it seems that an additional 3.5 million workers will be needed by 2030 just to maintain the current ratio of healthcare workers to an aging population -- across all aspects of care delivery.  How likely are these workers to be there?  A long list of negatives (stats and cited studies are from this journal) imperil the possibility -- here are just a few of them:

Young people, more interested in pediatrics than geriatrics.  According to one 2007 study, the image of 'caring for the elderly' is viewed as a poor career choice; in another study, 87% of high school students considering nursing are interested in pediatrics versus nearly half of those surveyed reporting no interest in a geriatric specialty. It gets worse: in 2008, only 1.9 percent of advanced practice nurses were certified in gerontological nursing; there are 3.7 geriatricians per 10,000 adults aged 75 and older; graduate training programs for geriatric medicine remain 44% unfilled -- which is not so surprising, because the specialty has the lowest median salary among medical specialties; long-term-care RNs apparently earn $10K per year less than acute care nurses.

Direct care workforce issues are numerous. Clearly, the trend is towards aging in place at home versus in long-term care settings, confirmed in ASA predictions about the direct care worker population. By 2018, home- and community-based direct care workers will outnumber facility-based workers by nearly two to one, and a third of those will be women aged 55 and older. But these are not good jobs -- in 2009, due to the primarily part-time nature of the workforce, the median hourly wage was $10.58, annual earnings were $16,800 and -- understandably -- 46% of all direct-care workers also rely on public benefits.

Tech can help optimize care coordination, telehealth monitoring and more.  As with all problem-filled social and work-related issues, these represent opportunities for innovation and change in how work is done and whether some carefully applied technologies can be useful. If you're not an ASA member, please read the report anyway -- it's only $18 -- I recommend it for all would-be tech entrepreneurs who want to reach the companion care, home health care, geriatric care, senior housing/independent living, or any of the other health-related entities that are needed to serve an aging population. The stats alone are compelling enough to rationalize and enourage the use of examples:

a) Care coordination software that enables tracking of the multiple providers who serve this population

b) Remote monitoring and telehealth technology with easy-to-configure alerts and exception management

c) Online training programs to grow expertise for those trained outside the elder-related specialties

d) Medication management packaging innovations and streamlined technology integration with pharmacies

e) Lifting assist technologies that can translate from the acute care and skilled nursing world to homecare

Overcome barriers by finding cross-generational champions. Now is the time to invite young people into the field of eldercare (worker, management, or technology) -- otherwise we will be reading this same or more dire report in 5-10 years. Young champions in any of the disciplines will need to be enticed with incentives and mentors. Ask yourself -- how many professionals go out into high schools and talk to students about why geriatric nursing specialties might be as personally fulfilling as pediatrics? How about a few organizations -- like Philips, for example, creating videos for high school students about the industry that has formed to serve older adults? How about mentor programs that are commissioned by AARP and rolled out to the states about why YOU should care about elder care?  How about a championship team of entrepreneurs, caregiving professionals and community services organizations brainstorming about what can and should be done to make elder care matter more in our society? How about that brainstorming occur at the annual Aging in America meeting in San Francisco?

Family Caregivers

Day by Day the concept of family caregivers is increasing becasue from a research done in many countries has been proved that, those old aged people who gets family caregivers tends to be more healthy with compare to people who are in old aged care homes.
We the care giving trainers, advices our customers to send their family members for getting training of how to care your old aged parents, becasue this can positively support the health condition of senior people.
There are many care training programs are running for the same purpose.

New Vision

Scarcity of health care workers depends on the mindset of the new generations. It’s sad to hear that caring for elderly was said to be a poor career choice because it’s a big NO! It should not be that way. Taking care of seniors is like showing love and respect to your own old relatives. While at a young age, society should develop a new vision and nurture the affection between the youth and the old ones.

caring

I love the use of technology here, but remember this is a people business. I am reminded of the quote "people dont care how much you know, until they know how much you care".

Thinking Aloud

IMHO, a medication dispenser is one of the set of easiest products to sell. People immediately understand the usefulness of a magical pill dispenser since medication management seems to be one of the first red flags that adult children see in parents. But, no one knows about them. I had a customer ask me the other day about a device I was showing them - "if this is so good, how come I haven't seen it on TV?" So, I would like to underscore your point about videos for kids, for adult children and for older adults. And, I'd like to see them on TV. :<) Hamilton CapTel has started extensive TV adverstising in our region and I suspect that this will help drive considerable demand for their product. There are a number of interegenerational programs underway in San Diego, some focused specifically on technology use. These seem to truly benefit both the kids that participate (generally high school aged) and the older adults who may be confounded by technology. The libraries are a perfect place for these kind of programs. And finally, coming from a telecom background, it seems that home monitoring technologies, especially as they advance with more sophisticated sensor systems, could naturally become a virtual home care scenario where home care technicans are actively monitoring exceptions in a home care network management and operations center and creating multilevel responses based on the category/seriousness of the exception (including dispatching aides or emergency personnel.) Phone companies, power companies and others have been doing this for decades. Then, the senior-monitoring-biz can be a solid, well-paying career choice for technicans, programmers, and nurses.

Marketing to the source of talent - community colleges?

Many community colleges prepare individuals for caregiving careers. Possibly an alliance of senior organizations and technology providers need to reach students at the source? If you can get the educators on board, maybe internships in the senior care sector will follow and then more buzz about the opportunity in the sector.

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