As Baby Boom Grows Older, the Need for Home Care Also Grows
Written by Choices
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Canada's population is aging, and providing quality care for our nation's older adults is already beginning to challenge our healthcare resources.
According to Dr. Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association, "We know that as people age, they require more health care services and right now, there is a very real worry that unless it is significantly transformed, our health care system will not be able to meet the needs of future generations."
This information comes as no surprise to the five million Canadians who are already serving as family caregivers for older loved ones who need help managing health conditions and the activities of daily living. Many of these caregivers are members of the baby boom generation, who themselves began to reach age 65 this year and are becoming more aware of the need to plan for their own senior living needs. Our legislators—from the local to the national level—are taking notice of the financial impact resulting from this population shift. The discussion about how to best and most cost-effectively care for our seniors is taking center stage.
A host of studies show that most seniors wish to stay in their own homes, even as they experience health challenges such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or memory loss. But changes in our society can make this harder than it was in the past:
- The current lower birthrate equals fewer adult children to help out as parents' care needs increase. According to a study from the Canadian Caregiver Coalition, one in four employed Canadians provide some degree of care for an elderly dependent, and this number will grow with the aging of the baby boom population.
- Adult children are more likely to live at a distance, especially in today's economy, which has sent many workers even farther afield to find employment.
- A higher divorce rate means more seniors live alone, and family caregivers' financial and time resources are stretched when parents live in different households, or even in different parts of the country.
The cost of institutional care continues to grow. For some seniors with medically complex health challenges, nursing homes and other residential health facilities may be the best choice. But for many other seniors, in-home senior care is the most desirable and cost-effective arrangement.
In a recent study by the RAND Corporation, Dr. Soeren Mattke noted, "The aging of the world's population and the fact that more diseases are treatable will create serious financial and manpower challenges for the world's healthcare systems." He added, "Moving more healthcare into the home setting where patients or family members can manage care could be one important solution to these challenges."
Professional in-home caregivers can provide a wide array of care services:
In-home caregivers are trained to provide companionship and homemaking services that support the senior's independence, including laundry and housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, companionship, and respite for family caregivers. They also provide personal care and help with the activities of daily living, such as feeding assistance and help with dressing, bathing and toileting.
Dementia support is also available. Even when adult children live close to home, dementia complicates the caregiving dynamic. Alzheimer's home care provided by trained in-home caregivers who understand the challenges of this disease and similar conditions can help patients remain home longer, even as the need for assistance and supervision grows.
Visiting nurses and rehabilitation professionals provide senior home health services. Nurses perform hands-on procedures such as vital signs monitoring, administering medications and wound care. Rehabilitation professionals include physical, occupational and speech/language therapists.
According to the Canadian Home Care Association, 78% of Canadians polled would prefer to receive care at home. The expansion of community-based eldercare programs including in-home care is predicted to be an important factor both in containing costs, and in providing the kind of care that seniors and their families prefer.