Partnerships Can Help Facilities Prepare for a Demand Surge
The long-term care industry is facing increased demand that will more than triple in the coming three decades. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the number of adults age 60 and over who need long-term care will more than triple from 8 million people to between 27 and 30 million people by 2050. Life expectancy continues to increase, but the number of people who have disabilities has also increased by 12.6% since 2009.
These factors amount to a significant increase in demand for long-term senior care, and the industry will need to be prepared to meet that demand. Nancy Losben, chief quality officer at Omnicare, shares her thoughts on the challenges the industry is facing and how we can best prepare for them.
With the rate at which the U.S. population is aging, what does this mean for aging populations today and in the future? Can you describe the importance of today’s Assisted Living Programs?
NL: As Americans live longer and the numbers of persons with dementia climb, our assisted living communities are being compelled to meet the market’s needs for increased levels of care and additional services, such as incontinence care, memory care, and medication administration. Pharmaceuticals and new age treatments will promote the participation of pharmacies and pharmacists to manage unique medication delivery systems and collaboration in patient safety programs to support aging in place.
With that said, not only will the aging U.S. population continue to rise dramatically, but a large portion of the individuals in need of this crucial care will not be able to afford it. Today’s seniors are active and have diverse needs, and organizations are innovating daily with programs, services, products, and resources that help people better care for their health proactively, so they can keep costs down and conveniently access the care they need before it becomes critical.
However, with the rate at which the U.S. population is aging, many resources will struggle to handle the number of citizens who are expected to require 24/7 hands-on care in the coming decades. There is a future for skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities that have the capability to plan for the future, and the time to start planning is now.
What steps should senior living facilities take today to ensure they’re prepared for the increased need that we’ll see in the coming years?
NL: As an industry, we need to work together to rebuild trust in the eyes of consumers and address some of the challenges facilities are facing, from staffing shortages to decreased revenue and low bed counts. Forming and strengthening partnerships is a great way to take some of the burden off facility staff by outsourcing things like pharmacy services, food services, cleaning, and other tasks. Working with third-party partners ensures things are being done with a certain level of expertise and frees employees up to focus on patient care.
What types of systems do you feel are most beneficial for senior care facilities to start implementing? What are the best types of investments they should be making?
NL: Implementing systems that can speed up or streamline operations are always beneficial investments for facilities. Specifically, investing in automation is a great way to save time and money. When it comes to pharmacy services, for example, smart technologies that streamline ordering or dispensing can enhance patients’ overall well-being, keep facilities in compliance with regulations at every level, and create a more comprehensive approach to medication management.
Staffing is an ongoing challenge in the health industry – do you have any tips to help facilities streamline their operations and make the most of the staff they already have? Should they be creating a long-term staffing plan to help prepare them for increased demand?
NL: Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will magically help every facility, but to meaningfully address staffing challenges, it takes a combination of efforts. Long term staffing plans are certainly worth considering, but ultimately freeing up staff from administrative tasks and introducing operational efficiencies that allow them to spend more time with patients is in everyone’s best interest – the facilities’, the staff, and the patients.
[As an example, from a pharmaceutical perspective], bringing additional geriatric clinical expertise and knowledge, and lending support within facilities where support is needed, clinical consultant pharmacists [may be] able to ease the burden on facility staff while helping to increase efficiencies and streamline operations.
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