An aging population is changing the landscape of healthcare. By 2030, more Americans will be elderly than children, with the number of Americans aged 65 and older reaching nearly 70 million. As life span increases, so does the need for specialized care for gerontology patients. A decline in the number of caregivers and shortage of physicians, particularly in rural areas, will require changes to improve healthcare services for older adults. The focus is on improving their quality of life while allowing them to age in their community successfully.
What Are the Six Vital Directives to Improve Elder Health Care?
In addition to developing new approaches to care delivery such as technology, the National Academy of Medicine lists five additional directions to improve older Americans’ care and quality of life for a total of six strategies.
- Develop New Approaches to Care Delivery
- Strengthen the Role of Public Health
- Remediate Disparities and Inequities
- Allocate Resources to Palliative and End-Of-Life Care
- Redesign Long-Term Services and Supports
- Create an Adequately Prepared Workforce
Nurses are essential in creating a robust, qualified multidisciplinary workforce focusing on elderly patient needs. All employees (from custodial care and nursing assistants to physicians and administrators) need geriatric competency training. Gertonologic nurses can lead initiatives to improve care across the continuum from wellness and prevention to end of life. New models of care, financial assistance and caregiver support services are critical for sustainable elder care solutions.
What Are Some High-Impact Elder Care Areas for Nurses?
Since older adults are very different from younger adults, nurses must explore other solutions. Below are just some examples of high-impact areas:
- Examining drug efficacy and safety in older adults as drug approvals may not have included older adults or compared non-pharmaceutical approaches
- Promoting the use of evidence-based geriatric care
- Focusing on smoking cessation in older smokers who are often not treated for their addiction
- Exploring options to promote remote or at home activity
- Improving adverse event/incident reporting and best practices in assisted living, skilled nursing and nursing homes
Prescription drug prices, home or community-based care and paid caregiver leave are just some legislative funding initiatives to improve elder care. In addition, more funding will be needed for home repairs, upgrades and disability requirements for seniors to stay in their homes. Finally, connective technology devices and access to high-speed internet are critical for healthcare reform.
What Leadership Roles Can Nurses Take in Shaping Elder Care?
Nurses can help an aging population and their caregivers navigate the healthcare system. Some nurses will focus on managing physical, mental and emotional well-being, while others will create awareness and connectivity among agencies, organizations and consumers. Nurses will lead systems and individuals that harness technology to improve communication, safety, mobility, mood and workflow, public health and elder care resources. In addition, nurse educators will help consumers interpret data as healthcare continues to move toward a consumer-centered model where people can shop for care.
Finally, nurses will transform healthcare with outcome data, quality care indicators and elderly care safety data. Preparation for all these solutions requires nurses to advance their education to thrive in an evolving healthcare landscape that focuses on improving gerontologic care quality.