Who Will Care for Us?

It has come to my attention lately that taking care of the elderly is not exactly a popular vocation.  No one says, “I want to take care of old people when I grow up”.  Let’s face it, I’m right.  This is near and dear to my heart because I have been taking care of my mom lately and it is not easy.  She has also gone through several episodes with home health and finding quality Home Health like Catholic Health Services provides is hard. I am also getting older and when you reach middle age and you start taking care of your aging parents you really start to think about what is going to happen to you when you reach that age.  With that question in mind, “What will happen to me when I get old?” I have done some reading and research and the facts aren’t pretty:
  • Baby boomers are getting old and the number of elderly is increasing at a rapid pace. Several articles tell us that by 2030 the number of Americans over 65 is expected to nearly double. 
  • A WebMD Health News article By Todd Zwillich states that schools are not training enough nurses and doctors on how to care for the old. It also states that workers such as nurses’ aides and home health workers continue to be undertrained and underpaid. 
  • Reimbursement for some Medicare providers is sometimes so low it is below cost.  According to "Medicare Reimbursement Information" Health Care Economist, August 31, 2009, downloaded from http://healthcare-economist.com/2009/08/31/medicare-reimbursement-information-i/  on February 18, 2010 – the Medicare reimbursement is 80% of the schedule amount for most physician services.  Based on statements such as these finding a provider is not going to get easier.
Based on my reading the elderly are growing in numbers while the providers of care for that demographic are not.  Those that would consider going into the industry face low wages and not enough training.  What can we do to help solve this issue?  At Catholic Health Services (CHS) we have had a couple of programs geared toward incentivizing students toward this industry:
  1. We have a highly successful doctoral level fellowship in geriatric physical therapy in partnership with University of Miami that we started years ago at our St. Catherine’s Rehabilitation Hospitals.
  2. In 2009 we started a program at our St. Anne’s Nursing Center facility with Career Learning Centers to develop our nursing staff.  We had employees that wanted to get their nursing certifications and needed a place close to home where they could pursue this. 
On the internet I read a great article in the RN Journal that told about a program in Minneapolis a few years ago created by The College of St. Catherine, Catholic Eldercare and Saint Therese New Hope, both partners in Catholic Senior Services. They wanted to pioneer an on-site nursing education program that they hoped would attract more students to the long-term-care field. The goal was to educate more nurses with real world, applied learning experience, so they would become more fully equipped for that first job.  It was written by John Wingate, Wingategroup.com http://www.rnjournal.com/journal_of_nursing/shortage_of_long_term_care_nurses.htm   According to this article the program really inspired students to want to do this work. We have to get creative folks.  Concepts like the examples above are what we need to help us motivate people to go into this industry.  Please, if you have any ideas about what can be done, write us and tell us about it.