Answer: More and more, they’re choosing the latter.
In fact, according to a recent Bloomberg study, U.S. healthcare spending on nursing and retirement homes declined from 2000-2006. And has been flat since then. “The demand is just going to be enormous for home care,” observes Bill Dombi, VP for Law at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.
Two factors explain the shift. First, home health care is significantly less expensive. According to Genworth Financial's 10th Annual Cost of Care Survey, national private nursing home costs have increased over four percent in the last ten years. While equivalent home care expenditures have remained nearly constant.
Second, as one would expect, Americans prefer to spend their last years at home – surrounded by family and friends in a familiar environment. “Baby boomers won’t put up with being warehoused in nursing homes and losing their freedom when they need chronic or long-term care,”Dombi noted.
Add it all up, and 70% of Genworth's first time long-term care claimants choose the in-home option.
The result of this cultural and operational shift: Home healthcare workers are more in demand than ever. Unfortunately, this trend comes with its own set of challenges. Chief among them is this alarming fact: Home health caregivers are ten times more likely to be assaulted than the average employee. Indeed, many report they seldom or never feel safe at work.1
The escalating risk in the homecare environment is multi-factored, and includes:
· Increased drug and alcohol use by patients and visitors
· Poor patient and visitor coping skills
· Increasing number of patients with dementia and psychosis
· Presence of weapons in the home
Making matters worse – there’s no federal statute specifically addressing the issuance of concealed-carry permits. And all 50 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry certain concealed firearms in public. Obviously, this can make weapons readily available when domestic tensions crescendo.
Another shift has been occurring, too. In the past, most home healthcare workers wore uniforms and other forms of identification to increase their safety. Today, the inverse is true. Many say they feel safer without identification that targets them for perpetrators looking for money, drugs or drug paraphernalia.
The bottom line: In today’s home healthcare settings, everyday encounters between patients, visitors, and staff can readily devolve into life-threatening situations.
How can healthcare leaders protect their people? Alerting systems – in the form of mobile apps – can play a key role. These powerful, interactive new apps offer 24/7, touch-of-a-button protection for both workers and patients – anywhere, anytime, on any device. The best of them feature:
· Check-in/check-out and tracking, to let everybody know caregiver location and status. They’ll never feel alone or detached from their support system.
· Emergency alert capabilities that help protect patients
· Instant notification of supervisory personnel
· Remote duress reporting, which empowers healthcare workers to dial 911 in one touch, enter text about an emergency situation, attach photos, voice and video and send geo-location information. These alerts and geographical visualizationofactivities then appear as pop-up notifications on supervisors’ desktops.
Importantly, these sophisticated new apps aren’t just a one-way street. They let supervisors play a proactive role in worker safety, too, enabling them to:
· Route home healthcare workers to patients in need, based on workers’ location and proximity
· Reduceemployeeadmin burdenbyautomatingtimekeeping
· Recordvisit occurrencesforbillingauditsandfamily/patient inquiries
· View interaction via geo-locatedpinpoints overlaidonamap
Clearly, improving the safety of home healthcare workers is a challenge that’s here to stay. In fact, the need is only going to intensify, as the 65-and-over population rapidly increases. By 2030, nearly one out of every five Americans – over 72 million people -- will be 65 or older. The 85-and-older age group is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.2
They all deserve the best home healthcare we can provide, of course. But so do their caregivers. Especially now that staying at home … is here to stay.
1Occuptional and Environmental Medicine Journal
2National Institute on Aging, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services