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Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce

Resource type: News

Institute of Medicine |

Original Source

The nation faces an impending health care crisis as the number of older patients with more complex health needs increasingly outpaces the number of health care providers with the knowledge and skills to adequately care for them. As the nation’s baby boomers turn 65 and older and are living longer lives, fundamental changes in the health care system need to take place, and greater financial resources need to be committed to ensure they can receive high-quality care. Right now, the nation is not prepared to meet the social and health care needs of elderly people.

The Institute of Medicine charged the ad hoc Committee on the Future Health Care Workforce for Older Americans to determine the health care needs of Americans over 65 years of age and to assess those needs through an analysis of the forces that shape the health care workforce, including education and training, models of care, and public and private programs.

The resulting report, Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce, says that as the population of seniors grows to comprise approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population, they will face a health care workforce that is too small and critically unprepared to meet their health needs. The committee concluded that if our aging family members and friends are to continue to live robustly and in the best possible health, we need bold initiatives designed to

boost recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists and health care aides;
explore ways to broaden the duties and responsibilities of workers at various levels of training;
better prepare informal caregivers to tend to the needs of aging family members and friends; and
develop new models of health care delivery and payment as old ways sponsored by federal programs such as Medicare prove to be ineffective and inefficient.
More health care providers need to be trained in the basics of geriatric care and should be capable of caring for older patients.
To attract and retain the geriatric specialists and aides that care for older Americans, we need to pay them higher salaries and wages.
New payment mechanisms will be required in order for providers to deliver care to older adults more effectively, such as through the use of interdisciplinary care teams.
Older adults and their friends and family have a large role to play. Patients can retain their independence by learning how to manage their health, particularly chronic diseases. Training programs should be set up to help family members, friends, and others get the knowledge and skills they need to provide care to their loved ones and to alleviate the stress they may feel from providing this care.
Download the full report below.

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