Asia-Pacific (APAC) Trends in Aged Care

 
All over the world, the aging population is growing. In many countries, life expectancy also continues to rise. The need for elderly care services—and the right technology to manage these services—has therefore increased significantly.

Elderly or aged care is an umbrella term that includes in-home and residential care, and medical health and routine daily assistance, usually for people aged 65+. It includes nursing and palliative care at hospices, as well as homecare by caregivers—both family and hired service providers.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of Asia-Pacific countries with a deep dive into how they manage elderly care, emerging trends, and challenges. We also look at the potential of mobile workforce management solutions in the aged care space.

Aged Care in Australia: A Climate of Reforms

The aging population isn’t as high in Australia as in some other countries—only 15% are aged 65+—but more than 1 million Australians receive some type of aged care. 

The Australian government offers Aged Care Services, for ages 65+ or ages 50+ for Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders, which provide a range of healthcare services including the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), Home Care Packages Program, residential care, and flexible care.

Trends in aged care demographics and care in Australia

The residential aged care sector in Australia is struggling to make ends meet due to funding issues and staffing shortages; 45% of them had negative earnings in 2018, an increase from 33% in 2017. In 2017-2018, almost a quarter of a million Australians were approved for residential care, but there was a shortfall in availability, leaving 34,000+ people with no place. 

A large number of older Australians want to remain in their own homes as they age. Between 2013 and 2018, national spending on home care and home support services increased by 34% (compared to 24% for residential services).

This rise in spending corresponds with a greater desire for community and homecare. But homecare businesses have staff shortages. With the industry poised to grow at 15% over the next five years, there has been a proportional increase in demand for practitioners and mobile healthcare workers. But organisations are finding it difficult to hire people with the right skill sets and at the speed required.

At its peak in 2013-2014, Australia had nearly 5,000 skilled nurses. After 2016, that decreased by more than 50%. This shortage adds pressure on existing workers too, as they have to take on more patients and work longer hours, which have a direct correlation with staff attrition rates. 

How mobile workforce management can help

With the increase in demand for home healthcare services, staff shortages, and rising attrition rates, healthcare providers need to eliminate inefficiencies so they can serve more patients with the workforce available. This is where mobile workforce management solutions can make a huge difference.

For instance, a mobile workforce management solution can use intelligent scheduling to book patients according to proximity, which reduces a caregiver’s commute time. This decreases caregivers’ stress and sets up a culture where they are more likely to stay with their employer. For healthcare businesses, this is an effective way to deliver more with less. 

Mobile workforce management solutions also provide IT and payment infrastructure support for newer systems, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which have requirements for filing reimbursement claims with the government.

Elderly Care in New Zealand: A Renewed Focus on Homecare

New Zealand also has a lower ageing population in comparison to some of its APAC neighbours. However, due to declining birth rates and increasing life expectancies, New Zealand will soon catch up to the trend of the rest of the world—the 65+ aged population is expected to make up 22% of the population by 2036.

Aged care in New Zealand is funded by the District Health Boards (DHB) and is more focused on residential than home care. Individuals are means-tested before they can avail residential care which includes care options in rest homes, long-stay hospitals, dementia units, and psycho-geriatric units.

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Trends in elderly demographics and care in New Zealand

Even though many people want to remain at home during old age, aged care in New Zealand is skewed towards residential care. However, the proportion of people choosing residential care has been decreasing. In recent years, the life expectancy of someone in a rest home is only 1.7 years, indicating they have managed their care at home for most of their lives. 

But in-home care has not emerged as the leading choice yet. Consistent with other countries, New Zealand faces severe shortage of caregivers due to low pay and poor working conditions. Every year, the country needs 800 to 1,000 new home healthcare workers.

Recognising the high dependence on migrant workers, the government has changed immigration laws, giving opportunities for migrants to convert to permanent residency. For healthcare agencies that have to constantly hire new workers and operate with the uncertainty of losing well-trained staff due to visa issues, this could be a game-changer. 

How mobile workforce management can help

The change in immigration laws creates scope for home healthcare providers to revamp their operational workflows with mobile workforce management. Less turnover lends stability, an opportunity to reduce overhead costs, and improve pay and working conditions for staff.

In addition to simpler scheduling and more operational efficiency, mobile workforce management solutions help with on-the-job training. For example, workers can access training materials and case histories from remote customer locations, giving them more confidence to execute their tasks.

Customers, too, stand to gain by being paired with a caregiver suited to their specific needs. Mobile workforce management systems can help reduce long waiting periods and improve the overall quality of care, positioning home care as a viable alternative to residential care.

Elderly Care in Japan: Continued Support for Community Care

Japan is home to the oldest population in the world, so it is appropriate their elderly healthcare system is well-organized. Japanese culture is also known for reverence toward the elderly, so much of their elderly care is community-based.

Japan’s healthcare program, with its compulsory insurance model and universal eligibility, has been well-accepted. The Long-term Care Insurance (LTCI) program, which levies mandatory insurance premiums from anyone over 40 years, ensures that every citizen over the age of 65 has access to healthcare, including institutional, in-home, and community-based services. 

Trends in elderly demographics and care in Japan

A number of factors have been overlapping in the past decade to push Japan to the forefront of the world’s aging demographics:

  • 2005 was the first year when the number of deaths exceeded the number of births in Japan.
  • In 2006, Japan became the first nation with 20% of its population aged 65+.
  • Currently, about 28% of Japan’s population is 65+, and that number is expected to surge to 38% by 2065

This increase in the aging population and the preference of the Japanese elderly to stay in their homes rather than receive residential care has put the spotlight on home and community care. The homecare sector, though, relies more on volunteers rather than an organized workforce. 

Common care providers for elderly Japanese include:

Family: Many families continue ancient traditions of honoring their elderly by caring for them at home. Traditionally, up to three generations of a family live together. However, this tradition is waning as increasing industrialization has moved many younger family members away for work.

Elderly volunteers: Many volunteers providing elder care in Japan are also 65+. It is common in Japan for a healthy, 65-year-old volunteer to provide care for an 80 year old who needs assistance. Examples include parents taking care of grandparents or someone from the community assisting a fellow senior citizen. This blurred division of caregiver and patient is unique to the Japanese culture and is beneficial to both parties. 

Robots: A growing elderly population and a shrinking working population has inspired the Japanese government to fund the development of elder care robots. They assist with mobility, lead exercise classes, and pose as animal-like companions in homes and retirement centers across Japan.

How mobile workforce management can help

In the context of Japan, mobile workforce management systems can function as an intermediary between volunteers and those in need. Intelligent scheduling systems can track volunteer availability and connect them to patients in the same community. The system can also match skill sets to find the best fit—for example, in cases where a patient has specific medical needs, the system can allocate a caregiver with the right experience for their needs.

Mobile workforce management can also help with staffing shortages as the need for home healthcare grows. Healthcare organizations that use mobile workforce management systems improve their efficiency, customer service, communication, and workforce retention.  

Long-term Care in Taiwan: Time for Increased Focus on Caregivers

Taiwan officially became an aged society in 2018, with 14% of its population aged 65+. The country is inching toward being declared a hyper-aged society by 2026 (21%). 

The government’s Long-term Care Plan (LTC) is considered one of the more favorable elderly care systems in the world due to its universality and low copayment from patients. LTC 2.0, the latest iteration of the government’s healthcare program, is exhaustive and includes coverage for dementia, day care centers, and other community-based services to help the elderly “age in-place.”

Trends in elderly demographics and care in Taiwan

The growing elderly population in Taiwan has resulted in the lookout for alternative options, such as homecare, in addition to residential facilities. But there is a dearth of sufficient and well-trained quality caregivers. The wait time for caregiver aid is often up to 10 days. 

This has caused most of the elderly to turn to self-funding by recruiting foreign workers from the Philippines and Indonesia. But this approach has its own challenge: it may be difficult to foster emotional connections due to cultural and social barriers. In December 2018, the government started to pilot a respite program for families with foreign caregivers. 

LTC 2.0 increased home caregiver salaries and working conditions in hopes of boosting job retention. However, attrition rates are around 33%. This has resulted in family members and community centers sharing the burden. As many as 130,000 people are reported to have quit their jobs every year to care for a family member.

How mobile workforce management can help

To relieve some of the burden off family members and reduce the dependence on foreign caregivers, it’s important for the organized home healthcare sector to thrive. To achieve this, a community of caregivers need to be nurtured through a work environment that is not overly stressful and pays well. 

Mobile workforce management solutions can help home healthcare providers optimize their field operations, maintain a lean resource pool, and achieve cost savings from scale. These savings can be passed on to workers as an increase in salaries. Mobile workforce management systems also reduce arduous administrative tasks on caregivers so they can focus on patient care

The Intersection of Technology and Elderly Care

As observed in the patterns emerging from various countries, healthcare is a complex space. The macroeconomic and political factors may not be directly controllable, but there are several everyday issues faced by the elderly and the mobile workforce that can be tackled proactively through the use of advanced technology solutions, such as mobile workforce management. 

  • From employees’ perspective, it’s important for mobile workers to have sophisticated, user-friendly healthcare tech. With the right tools, they can simplify their work and focus on serving patients, rather than spending time on manual, administrative, or redundant work. 
  • From the healthcare organization’s perspective, increased caregiver efficiency and job satisfaction means increased service capacity, higher quality of care, and less staff turnover.

Skedulo is an intelligent mobile workforce management platform that helps healthcare organizations and employees by improving efficiency, training and empowering workers, and providing a better day-to-day work experience. This translates into cost savings, more satisfied employees, and better care for elderly patients. Book a demo with Skedulo today!