Call it the silver tsunami, the pig in the python, the aging of America…whatever you call it, we are unprepared for the needs it’s poised to present. And in the same way Harvey surprised a region with devastation so widespread that rescue and relief efforts are inadequate, our nation as a whole will, within 10-15 years, wake up to a disaster that is long term: a frail, co-morbid, large swath of elders who need care but have no one to provide that care, and no place to go to get that care. And, guess what? That swath is not just for a week, or months, but for years. Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 – nearly 20 years during which we’ll be faced with astronomical care needs for our aging society.
Yet there are some issues that can – and need to be – addressed now:
- The caregiver pool. Immigration is a large component of this, and we are not facing the realities of need when it comes to immigration policy.
- Workforce training and placement. Right now it is becoming more profitable to work at a fast food establishment than it is to provide care.
- Education for the geriatric care providers. These numbers are dwindling rather than growing.
- Housing. We are discouraging congregate housing and encouraging home- and community-based services, but, at the same time, we are cutting reimbursement to home health care and increasing paperwork and reporting burdens.
Our thinking needs to be creative and long term. Those of you who are at the beginning of the boomer age range remember starting school as a kindergartner in the early 50’s. Were we ready? NO! It took 5-10 years for schools to be built, and, in the meantime, the early boomers had double shifts and portable classrooms taking up valuable outdoor play space.
Like any other crisis or disaster, it takes careful pre-planning and thoughtful execution to be prepared. Sam Smith, Senior VP from Axxess and I have a challenge to all of our home care folks, and we get into the issues and what we can do now to start preparing for the future with our “2030: Are You Prepared?” presentation that we provide as a plenary or keynote session around the country to the state home care association conferences. Join us in Oklahoma (Sept. 26), North Carolina (Oct. 9), New York (Oct. 24), Iowa (Nov. 8), and South Carolina (Nov. 13) this fall if you are in the area. I can promise an innovative, interactive and thought-provoking experience that will help you start thinking of what you can do today to prepare for the tomorrow that an aging society promises to bring.