With all the advances in healthcare, we are now faced with resolving problems that were unknown to other generations. The common denominator for all of these issues is a mammoth aging population. Regardless of how well this group takes care of their general health, they will experience geriatric problems that are part of aging. The challenges facing aged care is looming crisis that demands attention sooner rather than later. A recent New Zealand Aged Residential Care Review identified five areas where demand for services will outstrip supply over the next ten years.
Facilities, workforce and models of caring for the aged are the three that converge to compel answers for costs and demand for more facilities to swell with the force of a tsunami. Over the last decade, construction of residential care facilities has been ignored. Additionally, training and certifying workers who care for our parents and grandparents has declined. Young people and people with children need higher wages to maintain the lifestyle that they enjoy. Some of the aged care facilities are waiving the requirements of certification in order to fill employee openings.
One of the more interesting suggestions made in the review aimed at decentralizing coordination and placing choices into the hands of the individual. While on the surface this has the ring of an exciting potential, the question of who will be making the decision for their elder is always a concern. A relative or even a service provider may make the decision based on their own greed instead of the individual’s best interest. Making decisions about the type of care preferred at an earlier age could be the worst solution. It would be like asking each person to choose which health issue they prefer to experience.
Another suggestion that may produce prospects that are more relevant is the development of local, community-targeted services that could alleviate the strain placed on facility care. This solution could incorporate rural services that are currently non-existent allowing individuals to remain in familiar surroundings. It has long been an established fact that an individual’s health is better maintained in aging years when they are able to remain in contact with family and friends.
Fortunately, if we can create new models for aged care services the issues of a diminishing workforce and limited facilities can be restructured to minimise the devastation of services available. If the new models of caring for the aged can be integrated with the stricter enforcement for quality care in facilities, the reputation that institutions are saddled with can be turned into respectful and caring places for those who are unable to remain in the home. Higher wages are an extension of better quality care as well as a necessity to attract people to the nursing care industry as a whole. No matter how many innovative ideas are explored, it takes people to carry out those programs and implement those ideas.