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Influencing Caregiving

Staffing Crisis Influencing Caregiving

Fifty-Three Million Caregivers    

   The “National Data on Caregivers” show approximately fifty-three million adult caregivers in the United States.  Between 2015 and 2021, the United States saw a 21% increase in adults providing unpaid care to their family members. Why such a significant increase? One reason suspected is the shortage of individuals entering the job market interested in healthcare as a career option. With the decrease in available healthcare workers, a staffing crisis occurred, negatively influencing caregiving.

Baby Boomers  vs. “X” Generation

   Why the sudden staffing crisis in healthcare? Human Resources Departments have warned management for years that it was coming. The culture change influencing caregiving rapidly left its mark as a change occurred between generations “baby boomer” and “X.”  Think about the significant change in thinking during that time frame and how it impacted how everyone acted.  

  • We had a population explosion at the end of the war, creating a large population of baby boomers. As the offspring of a post-war generation that had nothing for years, they served, gave, did without, and barely survived or didn’t while living in a state of PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome). They belonged to the peace corps, helped in free clinics, and made personal sacrifices.
  • The “X” generation was the “me” generation. Their generous parents wanted them to have the comforts of life and to feel good about themselves. As a result, the “X” generation grew up feeling a bit more entitled, wanting more recognition for their accomplishments, and demanding more for what they produced. The baby boomers produced less offspring than their parents because the “pill” was available, and their social consciousness prevented them from over-populating the earth.  
The Next Generation Likes Technology

  Another difference between the generations centers around their career choices. Generation “X” selected careers in information technology (independent, high-paying, technical). Whereas baby boomers often held jobs in service industries involving people interaction, helping others with less pay. The result is that service industries faced a crisis due to a significant deficit in graduates from healthcare professional training institutions. Therefore, as the baby boomers retired, trained generation “X” replacements were difficult to recruit.

The healthcare industry began planning ways to address the potential shortage of healthcare professionals.  One way they considered as a possible solution involved discharging patients home earlier in their recovery process. The healthcare industry promoted the idea that “home was better” because it was a less germ-intensive environment.  In a hospital, all types of germs come in and out daily, whereas, in a home, the patient exposure stays confined to family and guests.   Furthermore, care is provided on a 1:1 basis rather than by staffing quotas providing quicker response times and greater patient satisfaction in a more comfortable living space. Furthermore, it freed up a hospital room for the next patient. The benefit of an early discharge also meant an increase in their revenue stream by decreasing inpatient days for the diagnostic codes used for reimbursement by third-party payors.

 Caregivers Not Included in the Planning

While the plan had many benefits for the healthcare industry, they forgot to incorporate a process for preparing families to take over the care transferred to them from healthcare.  As time has progressed, the complexity of care has become greater, but how to help families cope has not adequately been addressed. Resources remain inadequate, training remains minimal or absent, and regulations continue to get in the way of helping to resolve the issues.

Many children care for parents from afar or assist them through oversight measures.
Many children care for parents from afar or assist them through oversight measures.

Changes in Health Care Services Had a Great Impact on Caregiving Need

AVAILABILITY OF SERVICES

     States have pushed the responsibility to provide services to low-income and special-needs families to the local governments. Funding did not accompany the additional responsibility resulting in a reduction in service availability. The result is a loss in available resources to many families unable to meet their share of cost or drive the distance required for access. Many companies continue to struggle with finding solutions to this issue.  Consumer-Directed Services is one way Medicaid helps those eligible access care options when services are not readily available. 

AWARENESS NEEDED

   One explanation for the increase in the percentages reflected in the survey is that caregivers want others to know about their existence. They realized that unless others are aware of the need for resources, the change will not happen.  Therefore, they are participating more in surveys.