A strong desire to remain at home while aging is a central theme among baby boomers in a new report on emerging post-retirement trends released by the New England Home Healthcare Consortium, but there are barriers to aging in place that need to be addressed.
Hartt and Mind Research conducted the study and notes that it is qualitative research, which in general is exploratory in nature rather than statistically definitive. While the study’s findings, based on interviews and surveys administered to 50 baby boomers, cannot be projected in a statistical sense onto the larger population, they can provide insight, direction, and learning.
As the boomer generation heads into retirement,”enormous” opportunities for products and services are appearing, says the study, including helping them remain in their homes, stay active, and communicate with family, friends, and caregivers. Home care is a valuable part of the equation, says Susan Reinhard, RN, Ph.D., a senior vice president at AARP and directorof its Public Policy Institute who will be speaking at the upcoming New England Home Healthcare Consortium Summit in early November.
“Homes are where people want to be; that’s where they want to stay, and families and caregivers are very involved in making that happen,” says Reinhard. “Home care agencies provide really crucial day-to-day services for people with long-term care needs. If they don’t get [those services], they will eventually wind up needing higher levels of care.”
Home care enables people to build on their own capacity to adjust what they’re doing so they don’t have other immediate healthcare problems where they wind up in the hospital, she says. By receiving home care services or more comprehensive home healthcare services they can learn to cope with long-term, chronic conditions that may not be reversible, but are manageable on an ongoing basis.
The challenge for the home health care industry, says Reinhard, is just being visible. “People talk about health care, but they tend to go right to hospitals. For long-term care, they go right to nursing homes or assisted living. The more institutional forms of care receive more visibility and discussion than home health care.”
The New England Home Healthcare Consortium Summit, she says, will help bring more attention to the industry, which abounds with opportunities—especially in relation to healthcare reform.
“There is a lot of focus on preventing people from going into hospitals, if they don’t need it, or unnecessary nursing homes, for people who would rather be at home,” she says. “That’s the opportunity—[more of a] focus on ‘What’s going on in the home, and how can we help them stay there?'”
Products and services that enable people to stay in their homes could emerge from a variety of industries, boomers indicated in the survey and in interviews with the researchers, with the building industry and home healthcare as two major areas.
“Home healthcare workers will be increasingly in demand, and the nature of the services they provide will be likely to expand, including services to help coordinate home visits by physicians, visiting aides, physical therapists, and nurses,” says the NEHHC report.
Despite an overwhelming preference to receive care at home, there are barriers to getting home health care, as many people don’t realize it exists as an option, and a physician’s referral is generally needed in order to qualify for Medicare coverage, says Reinhard.
“The system has to change so that consumers can get home healthcare when they need it,” she says. “That’s part of the reason we have unnecessary re-hospitalization—because there wasn’t care given after [an episode].”
On the building side, homes will need to be retrofitted to widen doors and hallways, install rails in showers, lower counters, and create appliances that are more accessible to less mobile populations.
“In addition, builders and architects will need to design homes and communities that anticipate the challenges of aging residents,” the report says.
Providers of products and services in these areas will be wise to stay ahead of the learning curve, says the report, and should consider the implications of recurring themes that surfaced during the study, including the strong desire and commitment to remain at home; the prioritization of wellness and preventive medicine, and the need to develop financial strategies that address the cost of longevity.
Written by Alyssa Gerace