The Increasing Need for Caregivers As Americans Age

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed the caregiver shortage we are experiencing in the U.S. as baby boomers age and find themselves in need of care. This comes at a time when median incomes, including Social Security and retirement funds, haven’t risen in years, and many boomers are strapped with higher debt, sometimes as result of taking care of their own parents.  In addition, today’s family paradigm has changed from the days when people lived nearby and could more easily take care of aging parents. Today’s families are smaller and live further apart, making the task of quality caregiving even more difficult.

According to the WSJ article, there are an estimated 34.2 million people providing unpaid care to those 50 and older. These caregivers, about 95% family, provide an estimated $500 billion worth of free care annually—three times Medicaid’s professional long-term care spending. But the supply of these caregivers is shrinking just as we need them most. Every day, 10,000 people turn 65. In 2020, there will be 56 million people 65 and older, up from 40 million in 2010.

The supply for home health care aides from the private sector is also not keeping up with the demand for those who can afford outside care. The WSJ article cites that demand for private home health aides is expected to exceed supply by more than three million caregivers in the next decade.

There are several programs and organizations available that provide various services to help older adults stay in their homes. The costs vary depending on the location, and include the following as outlined in the WSJ article:

  • Transportation for adults who no longer can drive. About 700 volunteer programs across the U.S. provide free transportation and  assistance with grocery shopping and minor home repairs and yard work. Places of worship, libraries, schools and community or senior centers also offer programs, often at no cost, for older adults.
  • Local “Agencies on Aging” (https://www.n4a.org/) are available to connect adults to services such as delivered meals, transportation and adult day-care services.
  • Thousands of private and non-profit companies provide a range of help – from companionship and medication reminders to dressing, bathing and respite for family caregivers. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice has a public database (https://agencylocator.nahc.org/) of more than 33,000 for-profit and non-profit home-care and hospice agencies by state.
  • Technology such as personal emergency response systems, remote monitoring devices and mobile apps with medical reports can help families who live far away watch over and stay in touch with parents who want to live at home.
  • Home modifications can help older adults stay in their homes and can be as simple adding lever door handles, widening doorways or adding non-slip floor surfaces. A recent survey showed only about half of older adults felt their home would be able to accommodate them very well as they age.

As more Americans age, home care will become an increasingly important societal issue to address. Home health care providers have stepped in to offer services that traditionally have fallen under the domain of family caregivers. Yet more caregivers are needed to meet the increased demand.  

Manchester Specialty Programs is committed to the home health care industry as a provider of business insurance solutions that address the unique exposures of this rapidly growing and vital sector. We are also committed to providing our insurance agents and brokers with relevant information on the home care industry and the challenges it faces. For more information about our insurance solutions, please contact us at 855.972.9399.