Baby Boomers and Their Effect on Healthcare
Baby Boomers – the generations born between 1946 and 1964 – defined America in the years after the Second World War.
Coining the phrase “live fast and die young”, baby boomers were rebellious, individual and determined to show the world they were different from their parents.
They single-handedly created the idea of the modern teenager and it was their way or the highway – the highway frequently being Route 66. But although many baby boomers certainly lived fast, not that many died young.
In fact, after all the partying was over, millions of baby boomers embraced healthy lifestyles that partly drove the boom in personal fitness and health clubs across the United States.
Baby Boomers Are Moving Into Their Twilight Years
But time has finally caught up with the generations that loved (and still love) to party. Today, millions of baby boomers are moving into their twilight years and looking forward to retirement. People aged over 65 years currently make up around 13% of the U.S. population but by 2030, that will increase to 18%.
In other words, the 40.2 million Americans aged over 65 today are going to double to around 80 million. And that is going to place and enormous strain on the American healthcare system. Not only that, with better health care baby boomers can expect to live a lot longer than their parents and grandparents did too.
Even today, elderly people are the biggest consumers of healthcare resources. Currently they comprise 35% of all hospital stays; 38% of emergency medical responses; 90% of nursing home care; 26% of visits to doctors and 34% of all prescription usage.
60% Of Baby Boomers Have Serious Medical Problems
Around 60% of baby boomers have also been diagnosed with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. This requires them to have regular check-ups on their health, take prescription medications and look after their diet properly.
It also means that they require an enormous healthcare support system including hospitals, medical centers, physicians, nurses, physical therapists, dietitians, medical laboratory technicians and medical billing clerks. Along with a growing need for chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists.
Baby boomers are entering the stage of their lives where they are going to become highly susceptible to senility and dementia, bones that are brittle and break easily and bodies that do not recover easily from illnesses and a lifetime of abuse.
Medical experts believe that the musculoskeletal weaknesses, depression, diabetes and nervous system problems common to many baby boomers today is going to put more strain on their need for care. Little wonder then that healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in America.
Hospitals, medical centers and aged care homes are looking at this coming wave of healthcare requirements with increasing alarm. Many are already experiencing a severe shortage of trained nurses to care for their elderly patients, with demand exceeding supply by around 10%.
This problem is only going to get worst because the very people required to look after the elderly are becoming old themselves. The largest group of registered nurses in America today are in the 50 year age bracket and in the next two decades will be retiring from the profession themselves.
So healthcare is going to get hit with a double-whammy. A scenario where about one-fifth of the total population of the country – around 80 million people – are going to be needing greater healthcare and a severe shortage of the people who provide it.
This is also one of the reasons that there has been a concerted push by the federal Government to move more responsibility for healthcare back into local communities. To look after baby boomers close to where they live and work.
A close look at the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – more commonly known as ObamaCare – reveals that it is less about acute care than community care. The Federal government is investing $11 billion into community health care centers as the number of patients using these centers is expected to double in the next decade. Most of these patients are going to be baby boomers.
Big efforts are being made to recruit and train more nurses too. The Nurse Reinvestment Act of 2002 and the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 both focused on recruiting and training more nurses through accredited nursing programs. It’s also another reason why nursing is going to be one of the most sought-after professions in coming years.
Geriatric and aged-care nurses are increasingly going to be in more and more demand. As are nurses trained in nursing informatics which is an area of nursing that combines technology such as smartphones to help diagnose and monitor patients from a distance.
This can provide the care that these elderly baby boomers are going to require but without them always having to be in hospitals or clinics. They can remain at home and be seen by home care nurses who can help with their day-to-day medical requirements.
America’s healthcare system is going through huge changes in preparation for the growing medical demands of the Baby Boomer generation. They will be getting older, suffering more illnesses and requiring more medical care than ever in the coming years.
The role of newly trained nurses can not be emphasized enough in this care. Baby boomers are going to need nurses like never before which means healthcare is the one profession that is going to guarantee you employment over the next 20 years.