Home Health Care Meets the Needs of an Aging Population

The number of adults older than 65 is growing at an unprecedented rate. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that by 2030, 20 percent of Americans will be age 65 or older. There are two reasons for the rapid growth of the aging population. First, advances in health care are allowing for longer life spans. In fact, the average life expectancy for Americans is 79.8 years; 77.4 for men, and 82.2 for women. Second, the post-World War II Baby Boom, which lasted from 1946 to 1964, produced 76 million babies. The growing number of elderly Americans will certainly place a strain on the country’s health care system at a time when health care costs are a matter of national debate. Home health care will play an important role in meeting the needs of elderly Americans while helping keep costs down.

Adults with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, complications from obesity, or COPD, have better outcomes when they follow regular treatment regimens. Of course, they are more likely to so when they may receive their care in a convenient manner. This is especially true for elderly patients who do not drive, or who feel that they are inconveniencing their family members. Otherwise, patients suffering from chronic conditions may wait until they are symptomatic or gravely ill to pay an expensive visit to the emergency room, or require hospitalization. Home health care is a cost-effective solution for these patients. According to a recent report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at least 30 percent of hospitalizations among patients with chronic conditions are avoidable, and studies show that home health care reduces total costs by 14 to 17 percent.

One trend is the growth of Hospital at Home programs, which provide hospital services to chronically ill patients at home. Teams of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and assistants can make daily house calls to ensure that the patient is taking medications, assess fall risk, provide treatment, and check up on family member caregivers. Additionally, ultrasounds, blood work, and x-rays can be done at home. Patients taking part in these programs report higher satisfaction, and are at a decreased risk of contracting pneumonia or other infections that can complicate their conditions. A Hospital at Home pilot program for a major American health insurer found a 20 percent decrease in patients requiring re-hospitalization.

As a result of the increased demand for services, the employment outlook for careers in the field is excellent. The United States Department of Labor estimates that home health care will be one of the fastest growing industries over the next decade. The field is projected to add 1 million jobs. Entry-level positions do not require a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently, demand for workers in the field far exceeds supply, and the shortage of home health workers will likely grow larger. As the national health care debate regarding costs continues, home health care is a cost-effective solution to meet an aging population’s needs.

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