Baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement age, and as they do so, there are a number of concerns that need to be addressed, particularly in the area of health care. Unfortunately, there appear to be no easy answers to the health problems that baby boomers and the general population will face in the very near future.
Baby Boomers are people who were born between 1946 and 1964. During this period of time, the United States of America saw an explosion in birth rates that had never been seen before and nothing like it has been seen since. Today, baby boomers represent approximately 28% of the total population of the United States of America.
Since this group of people occupies such a large segment of the population, it is anticipated that there will be great financial pressure on the healthcare industry as a whole, as baby boomers reach retirement age. There are many reasons why the healthcare industry will face trouble as baby boomers begin to retire and begin to need long-term care services.
Baby boomers are the nurses
Go to any healthcare facility today and watch the nurses who work there. One thing will be very clear to you; the vast majority of nurses working in the healthcare sector are, in fact, baby boomers themselves. We’ve heard for the past few years about the nurse shortage and predictions that this nurse shortage will only get worse.
There are many reasons why the United States of America is currently facing a nursing shortage. Nursing has traditionally been a female-dominated career. Women have made great strides in efforts to achieve equality over the past decades; much of this progress is attributed to women belonging to the baby boom generation. With these advances in equality, women have realized that they have many more career options besides being a nurse, school teacher or homemaker. Today, women run America’s largest corporations, earn excellent salaries, and receive high levels of prestige.
A double problem
As the baby boomers retire, it creates a double problem. First, there will be even fewer nurses, because baby boomers make up a large part of today’s nursing workforce. The second part of the problem is that as baby boomers, 28% of our population, retire, they will need more health care as part of the aging process.
As you can see, there are some serious health issues that need to be addressed. Leaders in the healthcare industry have worked hard to find a solution. Sadly, their efforts are only having a minimal impact on growing the nursing workforce.
Healthcare companies have tried everything from raising wages to offering outrageous bonuses. Money doesn’t seem to be the key to getting people interested in nursing. Survey a group of nurses and most will not complain about their salary. What they will be complaining about is the daily workloads they face. Nurses are overworked and carry increasing patient loads as a result of shortages.
Combine this with the fact that nurses, who typically enter medical care to provide direct patient care, are forced to do more administrative tasks. Some of these tasks include over-registering to meet the requirements set by Medicare and insurance companies, and trying to get insurance companies to certify or pay for patient care. Most nurses didn’t become nurses to sit behind a computer and talk on the phone for hours.
How will this affect baby boomers?
Advances in medical technology and science mean that people are living longer. However, this does not always mean that there is a high quality of life for those who live longer. Many of these people who would have died from disease two decades ago can now live for a long time. These people often require a great deal of long-term care, either at home or in a long-term care facility.
Those who receive long-term care at home need nurses to help them with their daily tasks. The following is a quote taken directly from the Medicare website (http://www.medicare.gov/LongTermCare/Static/Home.asp)
“Generally, Medicare does not pay for long-term care. Medicare pays only for medically necessary skilled nursing facility or home health care. However, you must meet certain conditions in order for Medicare to pay for these types of care. Most Long-term care is helping people with support services, such as activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom. Medicare does not pay for this type of care called “custodial care.” Custodial care (unskilled care) is care that helps you with activities of daily living. It can also include care that most people do for themselves, for example, managing diabetes. “
There is also a lot of talk about whether or not Medicare will exist for decades to come. Consider the fact that 28% of the population will no longer contribute to Medicare through taxes, while at the same time, 28% will use more resources.
Is everything really so bleak?
Yes and no. It is true that there are no easy solutions in the foreseeable future to help address the nursing shortage, while the need for nurses will increase dramatically. It is also true that the economics of supply and demand will create a situation where healthcare will become even more expensive, while healthcare providers continue to raise wages in hopes of attracting nurses.
So where is the good news you ask? The good news is that nurse hires are showing “some” success. Young people are showing a renewed interest in nursing, due in large part to the huge marketing campaigns carried out by nursing schools and healthcare organizations. The other side of the coin is that these young people are seeking higher-level nursing degrees, such as Registered Nurse (RN) and Nurse Practitioner (NP), but lower-level jobs (with lower salaries) such as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) and Certified Medical Assistants (CMA) remain understaffed. These are the ones that generally provide direct care while registered nurses and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) meet the accreditation requirements by doing all the records and talking to the insurance companies.
The other good news is that insurance companies are planning ahead and offering long-term care insurance plans that will allow you or your loved ones to pay nurses for long-term care services. Many baby boomers are taking charge of their future by purchasing these long-term care insurance policies.
Finally, government and healthcare industry leaders are working diligently to address a predictable problem. Since these are predictable events, they can be planned as much as possible.