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Care management for seniors likely to tax health care system
Get ready for the wave of aging baby boomers
Those baby boomers are doing it again. After dominating the job market, revolutionizing the music and entertainment scene, and setting American culture on its ear for all those years, they’re going to create major challenges to the health care market as they age.
"The long-term care industry primarily serves the senior population, which is becoming the fastest-growing segment of our population as the baby boomers age. We are in no way prepared," says Elizabeth Bodie Gross, FNP, MBA, CCM, director of Lutheran Home Health Services in Arlington Heights, IL.
Consider these statistics from the Alliance for Aging Research: In 2002, 6,000 Americans turned 65 every day. By 2012, the figure will rise to nearly 10,000 people a day.
In 20 years, there will be more than 70 million older Americans who will have an average of three chronic illnesses and will need intensive management of care and resources.
Not only will aging baby boomers put a strain on the resources of our health care system, but they’re going to be very demanding customers as well, and case managers may have to change the way they do things in order to deal with them.
When baby boomers age, they already will have gone through the long-term care process with their grandparents and their parents, and they can be expected to insist that their opinions be heard, Gross says.
"Care managers will assume more of a consultant role as baby boomers age. That generation is going to want to control the care plan, especially if they are paying for it," Gross says.
Baby boomers are the first generation in society that has done less well than its parents per capita. They will not have as much spendable incomes as their parents.
It also is the first generation that has had the advantage of medical technology, which means living a lot longer than the parents.
Today’s older generation is a population that believes in the system and are willing to let the experts handle it. The baby boomers, on the other hand, are more questioning of authority. Case managers need to approach each group in a different way.
"Elders today are more willing to sit down and talk about working in the system. They will give up some decision making to the case managers and often look to their sons and daughters to give them guidance," Gross says.
When case managers handle the care of today’s elderly, they will get a glimpse of what’s ahead if they compare their elderly clients and how they react to their experience when the senior citizen’s children are calling the shots.
When today’s elderly seek case management for their long-term care needs, they have likely tried to navigate the system themselves and want somebody to come in and handle it.
When you deal with baby boomers, whether they are the main caregiver or the one receiving the care, they want case managers to give them recommendations, provide them with the pros and cons, and leave the decision up to them.
Then, based on their decisions, they want the case manager to help them build a care plan and to include them every step of the way.
"This is where the challenge will be for case managers serving the elderly. They must make the switch of having more control to having less control. They will be in the educator role instead of the role of someone making the decisions," Gross says.
The current system is not set up to deal with large numbers of baby boomers who have chronic illnesses, she adds.
"When you live longer, there are a lot more issues to deal with, such as living with chronic problems," Gross says.