In the first sections of this series on older adult care, we covered the aging of the population and how this demographic shift may impact health care. In this final section, we look at some specific recommendations for preparation.
Critical Steps in Preparing for Elder Care
- Coordination of care across the continuum.
The current climate of health care demands communication, teamwork and sharing between levels of care. Frail elders, vulnerable to complications and poor outcomes, require seamless plans of care across the continuum. Efficient patient flow through the hospital will be needed to serve older adults. Older adults will increasingly demand quality care and research institutional data online.
- Engaging Baby Boomers in their medical care.
While research has shown this population as a whole is more educated and affluent than their parents, health disparity remains a factor. This generation typically demands quality and control over their health choices, but will need education and assistance in navigating the complex medical world. More than previous generations, Baby Boomers are open to complementary and alternative medicine. Boomers need to be encouraged to engage in end-of-life discussions and participate in advanced care planning. Experts are divided over readiness to tackle these subjects.Some experts believe caring for parents will make Boomers proactive in advanced care planning, while others believe the aversion to aging will prevent advanced care planning. As health care prepares for large numbers of older adults, advanced care planning will be critical.
- Managing chronic disease.
Chronic disease is predicted to be a main driver for health services, focusing on better disease self-management and keeping individuals in the home as long as possible. Palliative care is necessary to manage symptoms, address pain and promote quality of life.
- Increasing the number of trained health care professionals.
As the population ages rapidly, the number of health care professionals trained in geriatrics has not kept pace with demand. Health care professionals trained in geriatric syndromes (pressure ulcers, incontinence, falls, functional decline, and delirium), atypical presentation of disease, and the older adult complex disease profile are needed.Common older adult conditions, such as heart disease, COPD, and arthritis will markedly increase the need for medical specialists. As an example, the need for cardiology services is expected to grow by 33%, while the supply of cardiologists is anticipated to grow by only 5%.
- Cultural competence
The Baby Boom Generation is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations and health care professionals will need to understand how these differences may impact health care choices.