Well-Trained Home Health Care Workers Needed to Meet Demands of Aging Population

July 12, 2019

It’s estimated that by 2030 the Baby Boomer population will be between ages 66 and 84 and will number 61 million people, with many individuals living with complex health care needs and multiple chronic conditions. Following is some data indicating how many more people will be managing more chronic conditions and ultimately utilizing more health care services by 2030:

  • More than six of every 10 Boomers will be managing more than one chronic condition (i.e., hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer).
  • More than one out of every three Boomers – over 21 million – will be considered obese.
  • One of every four Boomers – 14 million – will be living with diabetes.
  • Nearly one out o f every two Boomers – more than 26 million – will be living with arthritis.
  • Eight times more knee replacements will be performed than today.

In order to meet the health care and safety needs of America’s aging population, it’s necessary that the direct-care workforce be well trained.  In fact, a study conducted by The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, in a report released late last year highlighted the need to support the country’s direct-care workforce. “We know that patients living with serious illness prefer to receive care in the home, rather than an institution like a hospital or nursing home,” Katherine Hayes, Bipartisan Policy Center’s director of health policy said in a statement. “Creating training opportunities for our direct care workforce, such as personal care aides, will give them important new skills so they can continue to work in the home.”

According to current data from the Bipartisan Policy Center, there are more than three care workers for every retiree. By 2030, that number will decrease to two workers for every retiree, while baby boomers continue to age. 

The think tank behind the Bipartisan Policy Center report outlined several recommendations to strengthen care to meet future needs:

  • Congress should establish a grant program and direct the Administration for Community Living and the Health Resources and Services Administration to provide training grants for personal care aides and community health workers.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should utilize existing authority to waive the requirement that providers who are working under direct physician supervision be in the same location when providing home-based evaluation and management and palliative care services to patients with serious illness.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) should identify and evaluate caregiver-training models focused on specific chronic illnesses to determine under what circumstances they are successful and how they might be scaled.

The report also recommended that the CMS examine ways to improve the assessment of individual and caregiver needs and ways to adjust payments to reflect costs. Additionally, the HHS should permit plans to use newly created authority within Medicare Advantage to support family caregivers with respite care services.

“Caregiving can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful,” Hayes said. “Without the proper support systems in place, caregivers and the individuals they care for can experience poorer health outcomes.”

To meet the needs of our aging population, several home care providers have begun implementing the creation of career ladders as a priority in an effort to better recruit and retain workers. This involves launching dedicated training programs that give workers avenues for becoming specialists in certain areas, such as dementia care.