North American Trends in Elderly Care

The changes in North American elderly care are part of larger demographic trends felt round the world: the number of people aged 65+ is growing steadily, and people are living longer than ever before. In Canada, for instance, the number of people aged 100+ has crossed 10,000

Elderly care programs are working to cope with this increased demand. Governments are exploring pumping more funds into the system. There is also an unprecedented demand for skilled caregivers, and a corresponding need for technology solutions that can help fill the gap.

Here’s a deep dive into the North America region to understand how it manages elderly care, as well as the emerging trends—and sometimes challenges—the industry is facing. 

Elderly Care in the USA: Need Focus on Caregivers and Funding

While the U.S. population is aging more slowly than some other countries, the demand for elderly care is on the rise. The number of Americans aged 65+ is expected to increase to 23% by 2060

The government provides elderly care through its Medicare and Medicaid programs. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans aged 65+, does not include coverage for long-term nursing care, assisted living facilities, or custodial care. Most people who need long-term care must buy their own private insurance or dip into retirement savings, which is a significant challenge for low-income and even middle-class seniors. 

Low-income Americans can access Medicaid, a government and state health insurance program for different groups, including the elderly and disabled. State Medicaid programs also provide for those who need nursing home care, long-term care, or home healthcare. 

Trends in elderly demographics and care in the US

Two important elderly care trends have emerged in recent years that require attention.

Caregiver deficit

Caregiving in the U.S. is one of the fastest-growing occupations, with over 1 million new jobs expected by 2026. But this growth is threatened by low pay, unsatisfactory working conditions, and high turnover rates

Furthermore, long-term care isn’t covered under Medicare, which can lead to family or friends taking on the role of an unpaid caregiver. The contribution of family caregivers has always been underrated. Economically, the estimated value of their services is quantified at a staggering $500 billion. As more baby boomers turn 65, the unpaid caregiver network is shrinking and creating a care deficit for the elderly. 

The psychological impact on caregivers, the burnout, change in relationship dynamics, impact on their physical health, and mental health issues—such as depression and anxiety—are often poorly understood and poorly supported, as well. 

Furthermore, changes to immigration policy can also impact the elderly care sector in the coming years, as immigrants account for more than 23% of the formal and informal healthcare workers in the U.S.

Funding deficit

Funding is a significant issue for the U.S. Medicare spending accounts for 15% of all U.S. federal spending, and the funds are expected to be depleted by 2026. Social Security and Medicare expenditures are expected to increase from a combined 8.7% of gross domestic product in 2019 to 11.8% by 2050. 

How mobile workforce management can help

The deficit in caregivers calls for a renewed focus on the needs of home healthcare workers. To prepare for the future of aged care, healthcare organizations will need to address key issues like low wages, inconvenient scheduling, and poor employee satisfaction. 

Mobile workforce management solutions can make a huge difference in this context. By arming mobile workers with the right technology and information, healthcare businesses can empower them to make quicker decisions, increase efficiency, and deliver a higher quality of care to patients. 

Often, rigorous schedules give workers the feeling of always scrambling to catch up on work. However, mobile workforce management solutions offer intelligent scheduling that matches caregivers with patients suited to their skillsets and creates schedules based on patient location to reduce transportation costs and time. An increased sense of ownership improves job satisfaction among caregivers and reduces attrition rates.

With respect to the funding deficit, mobile workforce management systems streamline operations, delivering greater efficiency in scheduling, communication, travel, and more. This increased efficiency translates to cost savings, which is critical in the uncertain future of Medicare and Medicaid funding. 

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Elderly Care in Canada: Shifting from Institutionalized to Home Care

Population aging is as much of a phenomenon in Canada as the rest of the world, but like the U.S., the aging rate is slower than most other countries. The Canadian population aged 65+ is expected to rise to 20% by 2023, requiring more support for elderly care. 

Canada’s health care program, Medicare, is funded through tax payments and is universally available to all permanent Canadian residents. Territories and provinces receive funding from the federal government and are responsible for creating area-wide coverage plans based on the Canadian Health Act (CHA). Typically, doctor visits and other diagnostic services are insured, but ambulance, over-the-counter medications, dental, and long-term care involve cost sharing. 

Elderly care and long-term care services are supported by the government as part of the CHA only in hospitals. Care at non-hospital facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and patients’ homes depend on the discretionary policies and budget allocations of territories and provinces and therefore tend to vary across the country. 

Trends in elderly demographics and care in Canada

Due to increased life expectancies and the aging baby boomer generation, Canada’s elderly population is growing at a faster rate than its national population. But the health care system suffers from funding issues and long wait times. There is about one physician per 1000 people and it takes an average of 21 weeks to get to a specialist.

Many elderly Canadians receive institutionalized care at the moment, but there is a shift in demand towards homecare services. Healthcare businesses have increased spending on homecare by an annualized rate of 3.1% over the previous five years. And by 2023, the country is forecasted to have 3100+ homecare providers. Currently, though, there aren’t enough providers and caregivers. 

The homecare market is unorganized, with almost 80% of the services provided by unregulated workers with limited skill sets. In 2019, an estimated 5.9 million Canadians provided care for nearly 1.7 million people aged 65+. Most caregivers still tend to be family members who have to quit their jobs or structure a flexible work arrangement in order to provide support.

Due to staff shortages, as well as the fact that many patients need to self-fund their expenses out-of-pocket, approximately 26% of the elderly who require homecare have their needs unmet. Resolving these issues is important, as homecare is considered a better option for the future for both meeting needs of elderly patients and reducing overall costs.

How mobile workforce management can help

As the number of homecare businesses continue to increase in the next few years, they need to strive towards operational excellence. They need to optimize their workforce in order to serve more customers, as well as reduce costs and overheads. This is where mobile workforce management systems can pitch in.

Mobile workforce management solutions ensure that caregivers’ time isn’t lost to administrative tasks or unnecessary travel time. Instead, the solution aims to create a win-win situation for patients, employees, and healthcare businesses by improving the quality of care, leveraging the skills of practitioners, and reducing the overall spend respectively.

The Intersection of Technology and Elderly Care

As the need for elderly care grows in North America, Canada and the U.S. are looking for better ways to allocate spending for elderly care and keep costs under control. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the issue of finding enough caregivers to provide quality care for the elderly, and keeping those caregivers satisfied and engaged enough to stay.

Technology can be the gamechanger here. Advanced technology strategies, such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) and electronic visit verification (EVV), are being implemented to tackle caregiver deficit. However, it’s mobile workforce management systems that have the potential to play a significant role in this space with the flexibility to address the needs of employees, healthcare organizations, and patients.

An intelligent mobile workforce management platform 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 to learn more!