Baby boomers are fast approaching retirement age, and like them, there are a number of concerns that need to be addressed, particularly in the healthcare realm. Unfortunately, there seem to be no easy answers to the health challenges that baby boomers and the population in general will face in the very near future.
Baby Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. During this time, the United States experienced an unprecedented boom in birth rates. Today, baby boomers make up about 28% of the total United States population.
With this group occupying such a large segment of the population, it is predicted that there will be huge financial pressure on the entire healthcare industry as baby boomers approach retirement age. There are many reasons why the healthcare industry is facing problems as baby boomers begin to retire and need long-term care services.
Baby Boomers Nurses
Go to any healthcare facility today and see the nurses working there. One thing will become very clear to you; The vast majority of nurses working in healthcare are actually baby boomers. We’ve heard about nursing shortages over the past few years and forecasts that these nursing shortages will get worse.
There are many reasons why the United States is currently experiencing a nursing shortage. Traditionally, nursing has been a female-dominated career. Women have made great strides in their efforts to achieve equality over the past few decades; Much of this progress is attributed to women from the baby boomer generation. Thanks to these steps in equality, women realized that they had more career options than being a nurse, teacher or housewife. Today, women run America’s biggest companies, earn great salaries and enjoy a high level of prestige.
A Two-fold Problem
Retiring baby boomers presents a twofold problem. First, there will be even fewer nurses because baby boomers make up such a large part of the current nursing workforce. The second part of the problem is that when 28% of our population retire as baby boomers, they will need more healthcare 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 are working extremely hard to find a solution. Unfortunately, their efforts make only minimal impact in increasing the nursing workforce.
Healthcare companies have tried everything from raising salaries to offering extreme bonuses. Money doesn’t seem to be the key to getting people interested in nursing. Research a group of nurses and most won’t complain about their salary. What they will complain about is the daily workloads they face. Nurses are overworked and carry larger and larger patient loads due to shortages.
Combine this with the fact that nurses who often enter healthcare to provide direct patient care are forced to do more administrative tasks. Some of these duties include overscheduling to meet the requirements set by Medicare and insurance companies, and trying to get patients’ care certified or paid for by insurance companies. Most nurses did not become nurses to sit at the computer and talk on the phone for hours.
How Will This Affect Baby Boomers?
Advances in medical technology and science mean that people live longer. This does not mean that there is always a high quality of life for those who live longer. Many of these people, who would have died from a medical condition twenty years ago, can now live for a long time. These people often need a lot of long-term care, whether at home or in a long-term care facility.
Those receiving long-term care at home require nurses to assist them with their daily tasks. The following is an excerpt taken directly from the Medicare website (http://www.medicare.gov/LongTermCare/Static/Home.asp)
“In general, Medicare does not pay for long-term care. Medicare only pays for medically necessary skilled nursing homes or home health care services. However, you must meet certain conditions for Medicare to pay for such care. Most long-term care is dressing, bathing, etc. and helping people with activities of daily living, such as using the bathroom. Medicare does not pay for this type of care, called “custodial care.” It helps you with activities of daily living. It can also include care that most people do for themselves, such as diabetes monitoring. “
There’s also a lot of talk about whether Medicare will exist in the coming decades. Imagine that 28% of the population would no longer contribute to Medicare through taxation, while 28% would use more resources.
Is Everything Really So Gloomy?
Yes and no. It is true that while the need for nurses will increase significantly, there are no easy solutions for the foreseeable future to tackle the nursing shortage. It is also true that the economy of supply and demand will create a situation where healthcare will become more expensive as healthcare providers continue to increase their salaries in hopes of attracting nurses.
So where is the good news you ask? The good news is that nurse recruitments are showing “some” success. Young people are showing renewed interest in nursing, largely due to major marketing campaigns run by nursing schools and health care organizations. The other side to this is that these young people go to higher level nursing degrees like Registered Nurse (RN) and Nurse Practitioner (NP) but lower level (low paying) jobs like Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) fall short. While RNs and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) meet accreditation requirements by making all the charts and talking to insurance companies, they are usually the direct care providers.
The other good news is that insurance companies plan ahead and offer 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 their future into their own hands by purchasing these long-term care insurance policies.
Finally, government and health sector leaders are working diligently to resolve what is a predictable problem. Since these are predictable events, they can be planned as much as possible.