Within the next 20 years, nearly 79 million aging Americans will be placed on the Medicare rolls. That’s nearly 7,000 to 10,000 baby boomers every day that hit retirement and shift from being totally self-sufficient to at least in some part becoming dependent on our government for their daily support. That’s a whopping 26 percent of our population. Of course the world will continue, and possibly in even better condition than we left it. Yet one question looms large in many people’s minds: “Will our healthcare system be able to handle this onslaught of demand?”
The difficulty with the onslaught of Baby Boomers isn’t just that there are so many of them but that so many of them are high-risk patients. According to an article provided by RightCare, “While only 12 percent of the previous generation’s retirees suffered from diabetes, 16 percent of Boomers will require treatment for the condition. Likewise, where 29 percent of WWII generation retirees were classified as obese, 39 percent of Baby Boomers will bring this major health risk factor into retirement” (www.rightcaresolutions).
THE SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS
We are all aware that the healthcare industry is under a major public microscope as the Affordable Care Act has begun its implementation phase. The nursing industry has been in a crisis for more qualified personnel for decades. Wherein lays the answer? Sadly, much of the solution is economically driven.
The shortage of nurses creates a supply and demand curve that requires wages to increase in order to attract more people into the nursing profession. Couple the increase in demand for more nurses due to an increased population requiring care with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act for more practitioners, there are huge demands on recruiting companies to fill these positions.
An increase in pure percentage of nurses in the working population (which is not yet forthcoming) is not the solution either. This will ultimately require more and more administrative paperwork. Thus, even if the recruitment firms can increase the percentages of nurses going into practice and we can bring wages up high enough to attract sufficient numbers of nurses, many of those nurses will be sitting behind a desk — not with patients who need their skills.
Yes, this all looks rather bad for the Baby Boomers, who will soon be seeking long-term care in one form or another. But here are some possible solutions.
First, educate the Boomer population on how to properly set themselves up for a longer life. For example, purchase proper long-term care insurance to help defray the increasing costs of insurance. The sooner you buy such insurance, the cheaper it is.
Second, make sure the Boomers are financially sound. In other words, put some money away for retirement. This may be easier than you think — considering the increase in years you may be working, this might give you more time to stock the rainy day money into a retirement account.
Third, believe it or not, recruitment firms are actually increasing their activity in the nurse recruitment field. This will help with filling the renewed demand for this profession. The trick will be how best to fill the lowest level positions (CNAs and CMAs) as more of these newly recruited young nurses move into administrative positions — stay tuned for that answer.
The bottom line: It costs more to provide more. The money needs to come from somewhere and ultimately that’s you and me. It’s always the consumer who pays the final bill. Do what you can to keep your own bill down, such as exercising and eating properly, purchasing long-term care insurance and having preventative care medicine performed before you need these nurses to care for you. Keep your priorities straight and you will slide into old age as seamlessly as possibly with proper care. We’re moving forward — be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
For those of us with aging family members, trying to figure out how to navigate the medical system can be daunting. For many, the process is trial and error. How do we know what questions to ask and where do we look for guidance?
In June, a number of local medical providers and medical related companies will host an educational symposium. Together, we will provide information on such topics as:
• How and where to look for senior resources and providers.
• Suggestions on how to maintain a healthy body and mind.
• Preventative measures.
• Financial preparation for person in their later 40s and 50s.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.