Rapid growth among the baby boomer patient population will reshape caregiving in the United States. As the medical community grapples with changes such as how providers receive payments and deliver services, talent demand increases and more patients receive services in long-term facilities.
The Rapid Senior Patient Population Expansion
Caregiving institutions currently brace for the influx of nearly 75 million aging baby boomers.  As around three million individuals retire every year over the next two decades, care providers modify their practices to accommodate demand. Although the demand surge does not represent the largest current administrative concern, the issue exerts the most influential force in health care.
Currently, more pressing matters take precedence, such as health care reform and payment models. However, this focus will change as the baby boomer patient inflow reaches a considerable volume.
The demand for clinical and administrative talent rises along with the increased caseload. Demographers expect the retired population to increase by 73 percent by 2029, surging from 41 to 71 million people. During this transition, many individuals will forfeit their work-sponsored insurance and enter the Medicaid proFFvider network, an occurrence that will reveal whether the organization’s experimental practices such as patient focused medicine and performance based payment models will thrive or fail.
Health care researchers expect baby boomers to live longer but suffer from more ailments, such as high cholesterol and obesity, increasing service costs and provider caseloads. Medical researchers cite illness prevention as the key to managing the retiring population’s health needs.
The Expanding Patient Population Demands More Talent
In light of these developments, care providers anticipate a severe nursing shortage. From 2010 to 2013, nursing openings for disciplines servicing the elderly and disabled increased by 70 percent. If this trend continues, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects over one million new openings by 2022.
Moving forward, the two-pronged effect of baby boomers entering long-term health care and retiring from medical careers en masse intensifies the labor shortage. However, the group’s growing familiarity and acceptance of mobile medical technology might help ease this burden slightly.
Although uncertain of how the baby boomer influx will play out, care providers have managed to keep up with demand. Despite this, managing chronic conditions among baby boomers proves difficult, because so many current senior patients suffer from multiple illnesses. Managing the growing chronic patient conditions requires interdisciplinary collaboration. Care providers have not fully formed the relationships and procedures that support the cooperative environment needed to support multiple discipline service delivery. Until that happens, hospitals will incur increased and excessive expenses.
Changes in Store for Long-term Care
Acute care providers discharge patients faster, increasing the need for long-term facilities.  This practice grows in tandem cooperation among providers, as evidenced by increased employment of care coordinators by nursing homes. In time, long-term facilities will demand the same staffing levels currently required in traditional care environments.
Long-term care necessitates a different approach relative to traditional medical settings, requiring nurses to cultivate new skills and learn how to manage multiple illnesses.  These professionals will find increased opportunities in several settings as the patient population expands.
• In home settings, geriatric care managers develop plans with patients and families, while home health nurses help patients receive treatment at home longer. Gerontological home care nurses manage administrative issues that apply especially to senior patients.
• Rehabilitation centers help seniors to recover after falls and accidents. Nurses in this setting understand the limitations imposed by the aging process.
• Assisted living facilities provide care for dependent elders. In this setting, nurses excise executive power for patients. Assisted living facilities also employ charge nurses to oversee medications and care plans.
• In hospice care settings, elder patients receive pain management and care for terminal illnesses. Nurses in this environment also provide emotional support to patients and family members.
Long-term care performance will ultimately dictate the well-being of America’s aging population. Medicaid acts as the primary insurer for transition into long-term service and support (LTSS) facilities, an expense that exceeds community based funding. Other organizations, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), offer supplementary support. To ensure the well-being of the retiring population, care providers must open an ongoing dialogue with organizations that finance housing in LTSS facilities. Staff dedicated to managing relationships with these services, long-term care facilities and multiple service providers hold the keys to providing optimal services to the growing baby boomer patient population.
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