The State of Home Care of the Future: Our Experts Weigh In

2018 has been another wonderful year of growth and improvement at EasyLiving. We continue to expand our programs and enhance client care. In implementing our new training program, we now have a comprehensive program of 30 modules for caregivers to improve knowledge and skills. In our biggest news of the year, we kicked off our new Tampa office and are excited to bring the “EasyLiving difference” to home care clients in Hillbsorough County.

Home Care Needs in 2019 and Beyond

As we look forward to 2019, we’ll share some of our thoughts on the home care of the future. Not just where we see our company going, but the trends that will affect so many of us and how we provide care to our elders.

The Aging Boom and Its Need for Home Care

Pretty much everyone is aware the population is aging, but you may not be aware that the “oldest-old population”, or those 85 and over, should triple by 2040. And, nearly 70% of Americans over age 65 will need assistance to care for themselves at some point. On top of that, more than 90% of seniors wish to remain in their own homes. Millions of Americans need assistance with day-to-day tasks, but a few hours of in-home help can keep them out of nursing homes and prevent crises.

Why Can’t Families Provide All of This Care?

Family caregivers do provide a great deal of senior care. However, there just aren’t enough family members available to provide the care needed. AARP estimates that the ratio of potential family caregivers to those over 80 will decrease from 7:1 today to 4:1 by 2030, and to less than 3:1 by 2050. Meanwhile, many caregivers are “sandwiched” between caring for aging parents and children as well as managing careers and more. To add to this, a more mobile society means many of us no longer live near our elderly parents. On average, adults aged 60+ with one or more adult children live more than 280 miles from their nearest child.

The Home Care Industry and the Care Continuum

The relatively young home care industry will need to continue to evolve and grow to meet these needs. Home care, also called private duty home care and distinguished from Medicare/skilled home healthcare, fills gaps in the medical system and is a necessary part of the continuum of care. Elderly people receiving home care need fewer trips to doctors and hospitals. As a matter of fact, the U.S. saved as much as $25 billion in hospital costs in 2008 alone due to the growth in home care services over the previous decade.

A Snapshot of Home Care Today

Home Care Client Profile

The majority of home care recipients are seniors (home care also serves younger, disabled clients) with an average age of 69. Three-in-five care recipients have long-term physical conditions and a quarter have memory problems. About 50% of clients have more than one chronic health problem.

Benefits of Home Care

    • Keeps seniors healthy and safe at home with personalized care: reduces decline and unnecessary crises by keeping elders active, engaged, providing healthy meals, medication assistance and preventing falls
    • Supports family caregivers: helps lower caregiver stress and related health problems, saving U.S. employers $13.4 billion annually in health care costs; alleviates the productivity loss to businesses due to informal caregiving duties (estimated at $34 billion/year)
    • Cost savings: the median annual cost of home care for 2018 is $48,000-50,000 (depending on care level) compared to $100,375 for a private room in a nursing home; reduces hospitalization costs and can prevent more expensive institutional care

Workforce Growth

  • Over the last five years, the home care industry has grown by more than 50 percent.
  • Job growth for caregivers is projected to increase by 26 percent through 2024, compared to just 6.5 percent on average for all occupations.
  • The majority of caregivers are women. Minorities make up roughly half of the caregiver workforce.

Looking Forward: Home Care of the Future

Looking at the current industry and the projections gives us a pretty clear idea of what’s to come in home care. Without a doubt, the demand will only grow and the industry must continue finding ways to fill those needs. The challenge is not only to find enough caregivers, but to create systems to maintain quality care in such a competitive market.

As demand grows, we expect to see increasing professionalism. Consumers will be more aware of and seek out formal services. They will become more educated. We project home care will increasingly be recognized as part of the care continuum by both families and other medical professionals. As such, home care providers will be expected to meet standards and demonstrate measurable results.

When EasyLiving first entered the market, many of the policies and procedures we put into place were quite rare. For example, we provided and paid for caregiver training. We focused most of our efforts and investment on building a quality team and giving them the tools to succeed. And, we tracked results and measured quality via an independent survey company. The level of standards continues rising in the industry so that such measures will become the norm.

The Role of Tech

So many innovations continue to role out to help seniors live at home longer, from medication reminder apps and systems to fall detection devices, medical monitoring, and smart home systems. Technology can serve to support elders and their caregivers. A recent study shows that the combination of mobile technology and home care workers’ observations can effectively identify red flags for hospital readmissions. The technology can’t replace the personal touch or connection of human care but can expand the range of services provided and drive efficiency.

Communication, Accountability and Quality Control

Technology already plays a key role in the care we provide at EasyLiving. We use an online care system, creating care plans that can easily be shared with the care team via the cloud. This improves communication and provides accountability. Mobile technology assists caregivers to do their job more effectively, providing job information, client care plans, directions, and outlining tasks. With caregivers using the app to clock in, track mileage and tasks completed, our staff and families get the feedback they need. The technology adds a level of quality assurance and peace of mind.

As demand grows and consumers/professionals seek more accountability, technology will be a necessary component for successful home care. Care simply cannot be provided effectively without using tools and systems. EasyLiving currently uses an online system for training. And, we foresee tech having a bigger role in training and coaching. Perhaps video monitoring and feedback will enable expert trainers to be “in the home” with the caregiver to observe and help them troubleshoot.

Extending Medical Services

Nurses and doctors are beginning to use in-home monitoring tech to get feedback on patients’ conditions. With the aging population, such tech will be necessary to properly monitor and treat the large number of elders living at home. It will no longer be feasible (or cost-effective, or good for quality of life) to go to a doctor’s office for simple testing. Technology solutions can extend the skilled services which will be stretched ever thinner. Home care will play a vital role in assisting clients with such tech and providing supportive services.

What Does This Mean for You?

Personally, all of this might mean that you’ll be more likely to get your wish to stay in your own home. If you’re a family caregiver, you’ll have more options to support you. But, it also means we all have a stake in the direction home care’s headed. Whether we’re in need of it right now or not, many of us will. Home care can play a significant role in reducing healthcare costs, which will be essential as the population ages. It is also a growth industry for job creation, especially for women and minorities.

For those of us in the industry, complacency has no place. We should already be looking at these future trends and acting as if the future is now. Without good systems in place, we don’t do our clients justice now and certainly won’t be able to survive increasing demand.

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*Credit for statistics and information uses in this post to HCAOA, Caring for America’s Seniors: The Value of Home Care, www.hcaoa.org