White House: Target Staffing, Tech for Home Care’s Future

The White House is pushing for more public and private sector collaboration in technology and home health staffing solutions to address the coming “age wave” in order to help more older adults remain in their home longer during retirement. That’s one idea recently released in the final report from the sixth Conference on Aging that was hosted by the White House in July.

The aging conference has been conducted every decade since 1961 and brings together older Americans and their families, caregivers and advocates. 2015 was the 50th anniversaries for some of the most important federal programs for seniors: Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act. Not to mention, Social Security also turned 80 this year.

2015 was also the first year the conference was virtually broadcast in a live webcast in which individuals and groups could ask panelists questions via social media. On the day of the conference, more that 700 watch parties relayed their input, and stakeholder groups in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. organized groups to watch the lifestream, discuss ideas and submit feedback.

The conference was prefaced by a year-long conversation that brought out four common themes for discussion: retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports and elder justice. The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) released four policy briefs on each of these areas in its final report.

Public and Private Initiatives

During the conference, the administration announced a number of new public actions and initiatives to help ensure older adults can maintain health and dignity in retirement, including maximizing their independence and ability to age in place. One of the key announcements included a proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to thoroughly update the quality and safety requirements for more than 15,000 nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. The update would be the first in the last 25 years.

The updates are aimed to improve quality of life, enhance person-centered care and services for nursing homes, improve resident safety and bring regulatory requirements closer to current professional standards, according to the White House’s report on the conference.

There is also a new proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would increase accessibility to nutrition for homebound seniors by allowing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be used for food delivery services to these households.

Many private organizations announced similar commitments during the conference, including Home Depot’s “how to” video release that highlights simple home modification steps to help seniors age in place and remain in their homes longer throughout retirement.

Looking to the Future of Home Health

The topic that attracted the most attention was caregiving, according to the WHCOA report. For most older Americans who live at home, family caregivers are doing most of the legwork for a variety of tasks. As more adults age in place, it is more likely this reliance on family members will shift to paid caregivers. As such, the conference dug into policy recommendations that would ensure the home health industry is able to attract and retain “a sufficient number of paid caregivers in the profession.”

One of the biggest victories in this area was the Department of Labor’s final rule to extend Federal minimum wage and overtime protections to many home care workers, the report stated. But this has been controversial within the industry, with some providers saying that increasing wages could actually cause them to reduce staff.

Within the private sector, technology was a clear focus of the conference, as companies such as Uber announced new community-based services to serve older adults living at home. The report also noted that evolving technology on smart phones and engaging games are helping make strides in memory care and better cognitive function later in life that can help seniors remain independent.

Written by Amy Baxter

Photograph Credit: Diego Cambiaso