As time goes on, the share of older American adults grows significantly larger. By the numbers cited by HHS Secretary Alex Azar, it is expected that by 2020, there will be 77 million Americans over the age of 60; by 2040, that number will climb to 102 million, an increase of about 32%. And already, from 200 to 2016, that population has increased by 50% to reach its current number, 69 million. Furthermore, as the second wave of baby boomers approach retirement, their expectations for long-term care are very different from older boomers. They would rather remain in their homes than move to assisted living facilities, which is more complicated as they are more likely than previous generations to suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
This presents a challenge to the industry of long-term services and supports (LTSS): how to handle the inevitably skyrocketing costs and increasingly stretched resources that the younger boomers will bring? The current administration has proposed a plan that would bolster nursing home Medicare payments with an additional $850 million—with the caveat that the money be tied to patient health outcomes rather than a fee-for-service model, following the national trend toward a value-based model that focuses on the health of a patient rather than the number of visits and procedures they have had. While some nursing homes have been less certain that the specifics of the proposal will improve situations at their facilities, it is a clear move recognizing the need to proactively begin planning for this situation and help provide seniors with a great quality of life and an equally great quality of care without becoming economically unfeasible.
Outside the walls of assisted living centers and nursing homes, which again, the approaching senior population is eager to avoid, there are a number of models that can offer the level of support needed while reducing costs.
One such model is Illinois’ Community Care Program, part of Illinois’ Department on Aging, and agency which offers a wide variety of services for individuals aged 60 and older. The Community Care Program exists to help older adults who wish to stay at home—and where institutionalization is not medically required—overcome the difficulties of living their lives and taking care of themselves without sacrificing their independence.
The program connects participating adults with primary care providers, adult day service providers, and in-home care services, gathering together a network of services for older adults, including case management, help with household chores, social interactions, transport assistance, home care and maintenance, emergency call services, and home safety monitoring.
The program is aimed in particular at individuals whose financial assets are smaller or who live beneath the federal poverty level—which can help in particular those who are struggling under current and past economic circumstances not faced so acutely by previous generations. From an administrative and budgetary standpoint, looking forward to the increase in older adults with these difficulties, programs like these are founded on the basis of a robust and growing body of evidence demonstrating that a very large portion of healthcare costs are attributable to a very small number of individuals whose complex socio-economic needs are not being met, and by meeting those needs—issues like housing and food security, transportation security, and behavioral and mental health assistance—not only are these individuals helped, but the overall expenses they incur on taxpayers and on government resources is also alleviated.
In order for Community Care Programs such as Illinois’ or Whole Person Care Programs such as Los Angeles’ to work, however, it is necessary to have some means of coordinating the care and bridging the communication gap between the various participants. To this end, it’s critical to find and employ a care coordination solution that can help all the varied stakeholders better talk to one another and share information about the people they serve. Eccovia Solutions’ ClientTrack care coordination platform is designed to maintain compliance with rapidly-changing government regulations and standards, to connect all members of a care coordination program’s coalition and provide them with uniform access to a comprehensive database of clients, and help alleviate the administrative burden so that these programs can focus on what really matters—giving the people the personalized help and individualized care plans they need.
As we take seriously the responsibility to provide the best possible quality of life and medical care for our aging population, we must find cost-effective solutions that do not compromise on prioritizing positive health outcomes. As agencies like Illinois’ Department on Aging work to provide solutions through models like the Community Care Program, we are better positioned to give older adults the option to live the way they want, in a dignified and independent way, while tending to their needs and even keeping costs down through preventative care and targeting those at the greatest risk. Eccovia Solutions is proud to be part of the solution for our clients, connecting the many services, programs, organizations, and healthcare providers to LTSS to create a strong network that will promote better health, prevent the onset of costly and debilitating illness, and allow seniors the best chance at living the lifestyle they want.