Baby boomers are a lot more than just the generation of people born in the years immediately following World War II. They're our mothers, our fathers, our neighbors and our friends. They're also one of the most significant generations in American history, at least as far as sheer numbers are concerned. Most studies say that by the closing days of 1946 - the first official year of the "baby boom" - there were roughly 2.4 million people among the demographic. Flash-forward to 1964 - the final official year of the boom - and that number had grown to 72.5 million. Add in people who immigrated to the United States and you're looking at a total population of about 78.8 million people.
They're also not getting any younger. Though that last point goes without saying, it comes along with a few key implications that far too many people have yet to devote the appropriate amount of attention to.
Baby Boomers and Aging: The Situation
In 2016, baby boomers were between the ages of 52 and 70. Today, there are about 46 million people in the United States over the age of 65. By 2060, that number will more than double to 98 million - or roughly 24% of the total population. When you add in the fact that the average U.S. life expectancy increased from 68 years-old in 1965 to 79 years-old in 2013, you have something of a perfect storm: an entire generation of people that is about to disrupt the entire long term care system as we know it, all while completely reshaping what the country's older population looks like at the exact same time.
Make no mistake: there is an impending "Graying of America" that is absolutely coming sooner than you think. In order to survive, you need to start getting ready for it - not five years from now, not next week, but today. If you really want to improve your infrastructure for social services as the very idea of long-term care changes around you, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
Innovation is King
If the world of long-term care is changing around you in real-time, it stands to reason that your solution should not be to double-down on the care models of yesteryear. Instead, looking towards the future - and to the innovation that only technology can provide - is the best way to get ready for the impending tidal wave on the horizon.
Instead of adding additional staff (which may not be in your budget) or forcing your existing employees to work harder (which does little to improve the quality of care you're able to offer), you need to embrace solutions that allow you to work smarter than ever before. Case management software systems, for example, increase visibility, allow you to future-proof your infrastructure and maintain compliance with bodies like HIPAA at the exact same time. The most powerful software won't require you to "start from scratch" - you should be able to take what you already have and use the foundation of your case management software to create something new.
It's not about embracing technology for technology's sake - it's about encouraging workflows that are more responsive and efficient. It's about automating certain menial tasks so that your living, breathing employees can focus their attention where it matters the most - and it's NOT something you can do just by hiring as many people as possible.
Look Inward, Not Outward
In order to truly improve your agency's infrastructure for long-term care in a meaningful way, you need to understand what "improve" actually means in your situation. Every organization is a little different and almost everyone is starting from a different place. Therefore, there is NO "one size fits all" solution for what is about to happen - particularly when it comes to picking a new case management software to act as your stable foundation for future growth. There is only the solution that makes the most sense for YOU.
Because of this, you need to begin by asking the right questions before you pick case management software to go with. As you consider any option, think about the answers to the following questions:
- Will this solution allow me to add case management forms as our needs evolve in the future?
- Can our case management software change as reporting rules and requirements do the same?
- Can this solution share information with different software systems in use by our sister agencies?
- Can this solution automatically incorporate all of the information from our old system, or do we have to do it all by hand?
- Does this solution provide us with real-time access to data?
- How difficult is this going to be to implement?
- Does this allow us to focus on the right things, like standardization, scalability and collaboration?
If your organization literally depends on the answer to one of these questions being "yes," rest assured - "no" is not an option. But again, it's so important to understand that this is going to require a great deal of introspection. The definition of "collaboration" to one organization may be wildly different from another. Not every long-term care facility may feel the need to take their data fully mobile like only the cloud can offer, but then again yours might.
By far, the best way to improve your agency's infrastructure for long-term care is to make sure you understand the situation you're about to face, gain a better understanding of where you currently stand and make sure you're making adjustments TODAY that allow you to bridge the gap between "what you offer today" and "what you need to offer tomorrow" as efficiently as possible. Make no mistake: the baby boomer tidal wave is coming whether you're prepared for it or not. For the sake of an entire generation, it's up to you to get ready for it.
Grab Our Book!
We've written a book on this subject titled "The Aging Tidal Wave - A Survival Guide for Agency Directors" and it's available for FREE at: Long Term Care Book. If you're interested in learning more about some of the options available to you - be sure to grab yourself a copy.