There is much talk in the industry about how senior care can expect little help from the government. But can legislators really turn a blind eye to senior care in the US?
Maybe not. Not when voters, including business owners and corporate America, start to feel the pressure a burgeoning senior population has on the workforce and the economy.
It is Time for Leadership in the Senior Care Industry
This doesn’t mean that the senior care industry can sit around and wait for legislators to get a clue. This is the time for leadership in SNFs, ALFs, and other levels of senior care, to make improvements on their end. It will be far easier for legislators to come around if they see an industry that has modernized, including embracing data as a path to improvement.
And now is also the time that individual members of the industry should be calling their congressperson, and the industry should step up efforts through trade association lobbying, even more than it already is.
The Numbers Don’t Lie When It Comes to Senior Care
A large part of the challenge is that we have reached a demographic tipping point that is unprecedented in our country. A fact sheet by Population Reference Bureau tells the story. Americans 65 and older will more than double from their 2016 numbers of 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060. The slice of the pie representing the percentage of seniors in the population will expand from 15% to almost 25%. More importantly, according to an April 2022 article in the Washington Post, the number of seniors over 85 (those most likely to need post-acute and senior care services) will more than quadruple in the next 20 years.
The WaPo article also cites a Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau. “At least 6.6 million people who weren’t working in early March,” the article read, “said it was because they were caring for someone else.”
Caregiving is the second most common reason why folks aren't working, according to Elder Law Prof.com, an elder law blog.
That’s right. Adults caring for senior relatives played a role in The Great Resignation. They are caring for seniors that came out of the SNFs and ALFs during the pandemic because of concerns over COVID (so far, they are not returning). Someone from the family inevitably steps up to fill the caregiving role, and the burden inordinately falls on women.
As one formerly employed woman said in an interview for Washington Post the article, “Until my mother leaves this earth, I will be out of the workforce.”
The Stats on Senior Care Get More Alarming
Then there is a report from the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers:
In 2019, there were 163.2 million people in the U.S. workforce. An estimated 18% to 22% were employed and were family caregivers at the same time
61% reported their caregiving responsibilities were disruptive to their employment
53% had to start work late or leave early because of their caregiving activities
14% took a leave of absence from their job
8% of those reported that their caregiving responsibilities resulted in a warning about work performance or attendance at work.
The average productivity loss was almost 11% per employee with caregiving responsibilities, translating to a cost of $5,281 per caregiving employee. The employer generally absorbs those productivity losses.
Are all these caregivers taking care of seniors? No, children, grandchildren, siblings, and spouses also figure into the mix. But the senior portion of those who need caregiving is the one that will grow the fastest in the coming years.
Consider this. Last year Forbes ran an article by Kal Vepuri, CEO of Hero, a developer of medication management technology. Vepuri talked about a measurement known as the “old-age support ratio,” another concerning number from the Population Reference Bureau.
This metric measures how many 18- to 64-year-olds there are for every person 65 or older and is used to determine the stress on the working population. In 2000, that ratio was five working-age individuals for every senior. Last year, it was one out of 3.7. Demographers now predict the ratio will continue to shrink, dropping to one out of 2.8 by 2030.
When Will Legislators Come Around to Supporting the Senior Care Industry?
It comes down to money. As soon as legislators realize that their inattention to senior care affects workplace productivity, we will see a shift in policy. When one of the bullet points in a disappointing Wall Street earnings report cites a drop in worker productivity because of caregiving duties, we will see a shift in policy.
What Can the Senior Care Industry Do in the Meantime?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is the time the senior care industry—SNFs, LTC, and senior living communities—need to start honing their operations. One area where gains can quickly be recognized is in accumulating and interpreting the data so they can work smarter and achieve better results.
When legislators see an industry proactively working to improve itself as it confronts a huge challenge, they will be more likely to work as partners rather than create more regulations.
CareWork Can Help
CareWork is committed to one of the critical sectors of senior care: giving administrators and leadership teams access to the data that will help them make the best decisions for their business and the care of their residents. The CareWork platform integrates with the systems you already use and brings the information together on one screen.
CareWork empowers providers and enables them to manage operations in one place and do so strategically. Automated tools provide data that increases quality, controls costs, tracks compliance, manages labor, reduces waste, and gets jobs done faster. We make care work easier.
Just as importantly, we are committed to the senior care industry. To learn more, visit our website.