"There's no place like home, there's no place like home…"So declared Dorothy, the iconic central character in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz."
For many seniors today, that mantra couldn't ring more true.
Fact is, more and more of them are choosing their own homes, vs. retirement and nursing facilities, as the preferred place to grow old gracefully. This trend is reflected in a recent Bloomberg study that reveals a marked decline in nursing and retirement home spending - despite a substantial increase of over-65 Americans. They now comprise nearly 19 percent of the population.
Bottom line: Americans are living longer and spending their final years at home at the highest rates since the 50s.
What's causing the shift? Major factors include:
- A new generation of independent, economically stable and tech-savvy baby boomers
- A proliferation of social media, email and home monitoring systems that enable seniors to keep in touch with family members, and the reverse - even if they're geographically dispersed. This interaction ensures seniors are caring for themselves, or being appropriately attended to by designated caregivers.
- Increased financial security vs. previous generations
- Wide availability of at-home services. As mobility limitations restrict activities, modern seniors can pick up the phone or go online to obtain food delivery, housekeeping, in-home meal preparation, laundry and other daily essentials.
- The natural desire to spend their last years at home, surrounded by family and friends in a familiar, comfortable environment
Another factor spurring the move to staying at home: it can be less expensive. Comparing nursing homes to home care, Genworth Financial's 10th Annual Cost of Care Survey reported that national private nursing home costs increased over 4 percent in the last ten years; equivalent home care expenditures have remained nearly constant.
Add it all up, and 70 percent of Genworth's first-time, long-term care claimants choose the in-home option.
This societal shift has made home healthcare workers more in demand than ever. The trend is great for seniors, but a security concern for workers. Truth is, they're ten times more likely to be assaulted than the average employee. Indeed, many report they seldom or never feel safe at work. 1 Other data suggests that up to two-thirds of all home caregivers have been physically, sexually or verbally abused on the job. Adding fuel to the fire: the healthcare industry is seeing a rise in workplace violence that far outpaces other industries.
How do we protect the home healthcare worker?
Savvy employers rely on mobile alert systems that protect both workers and the patients they care for. These sophisticated systems:
- Visually track home care workers to ensure safety and security as they check in and out of patient visits
- Lets workers dial 911 in one touch and/or activate a duress button on their phones to report emergencies involving themselves, their patients or both parties
- Enables them to attach photos, voice and video
- Let's them send geo-location to supervisors, who tracks the worker until she/he feels safe
The result is a new level of security; not only for today's home care workers, but the patients they care for, too. That's critical, as more Americans choose home care and the need for skilled at-home workers intensifies.
All seniors deserve the best home healthcare we can provide, of course. But we need to care for the caregivers, as well.