Rising Demand for Healthcare Workers & Long-term Care Facilities
Even as they draw closer to retirement age, baby boomers continue to make an impact on our nation. As the largest generation in American history, this demographic is expected to upend our country’s economy in a multitude of ways. One particular sector of the economy that will be threatened is health care, specifically long-term care. According to an article in Forbes, an estimated 117 million Americans will need some form of assistance by 2020. Simultaneously, the number of paid and unpaid caregivers is in a rapid decline. Here’s a look at the mixture of socioeconomic factors and healthcare trends that play into the looming labor challenges of the long-term care industry.
A shortage of caregivers
In an article in Reuters, human resources expert Paul Osterman shares his predictions on the upcoming scarcity of caregivers, specifically those who assist in activities of daily living (ADLs). By 2030, there will be a national shortage of 151,000 paid caregivers and 3.8 million unpaid family caregivers, according to Osterman. The gap becomes even more significant by 2040, with a shortage of 355,000 paid workers and 11 million family caregivers. This leaves a massive number of disabled and elderly patients without the daily care they need.
The challenge of balancing priorities
The growing sparsity of family members taking up the role of caregiver has a lot to do with socioeconomic shifts. The upcoming generation of millennials is set to have a lower standard of living than their parents. The increased cost of living and mountains of debt are pushing young adults towards focusing on their careers. Additionally, many are relocating away from their parents to find jobs in areas with a lower cost of living.
Other factors include parental divorce and marital separation. With two parents living separately, children are forced to choose whom to care for, leaving one parent to seek an alternative solution to long-term care. Due to these factors, many will look to long-term care facilities as an option for their parents and family members.
Industry issues for caregivers
With a dwindling number of available unpaid caregivers, the demand for paid care will increase in the upcoming years. However, low-paid long-term care jobs are competing against career options that provide higher earning potential and opportunities for career advancement in other fields. With Medicaid dictating the maximum payout for caregiving services, it’s difficult for long-term care facilities to increase wages for these positions to make them more desirable.
Additionally, immigration policies can also impact the availability of workers as nearly 24% of direct care workers come from outside the United States. With strict immigration policies in place, it will be hard to find workers to take on the needs of the long-term care industry.
What is the solution?
One solution points to higher wages for paid caregivers to attract workers in the job market. This, in combination with additional training for CNAs that would certify workers to administer additional services that would traditionally fall under the responsibility of a nurse, could help bridge the gap in the job market. By passing along more responsibilities to CNAs, it would justify a wage increase while lowering the need for higher-paid positions. Another article similarly suggests that nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be in high demand. LTC facilities may benefit from employing these positions to help with elderly and disabled patients instead of relying solely on doctors.
Additionally, over the next few years, Medicare and Medicaid policies and funding will be highly important in ensuring the long-term care needs of aging baby boomers are met. Currently, most long-term care services are not covered by Medicare. Close to Immigration policies are also something to keep in mind when it comes to the labor market for the health care industry.
Although there is no clear answer to this growing problem, being proactive in finding a solution can help mitigate some of the foreseeable concerns associated with long-term care for baby boomers.