Friday, April 18, 2008

Baby Boomers and the Shrinking Health Care Workforce

Medical News Today brings us more disquieting news about the state of health care as it relates to the wave of Baby Boomers soon to retire. According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, the health care industry is not only unprepared to meet the health needs of the coming onslaught of retirees, but is also lacking enough staff to provide proper care for them:

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's largest organization devoted to aging research, fully supports the publication's call for a labor pool of adequate size and competency to care for a rapidly increasing over-65 population.

"This pivotal report lays out a much-needed strategy for developing a network of health professionals and frontline workers to avert a crisis in quality care for older persons," said GSA President Lisa Gwyther, MSW. "Complex chronic illness is an issue that we all will face with age. The current fragmented system of care desperately requires an increase in better-prepared personnel to sustain itself."
When you combine the number of Americans reaching retirement age in the next few years with the continually extending life expectancy, an uneasy picture emerges. To aggravate the situation, the number of geriatric specialists is shrinking.
Marie Bernard, MD, president of The Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (GSA's educational unit), said policymakers must act quickly to address these problems.

"To meet the needs of our aging parents and grandparents, we need to increase the number of geriatric health specialists - both to provide care for those older adults with the most complex issues and to train the rest of the workforce in the common medical problems of old age," Bernard said.
The elderly already are responsible for a disproportionate amount of health care resources, partly due to the prevalence of chronic conditions that require continual or serial treatments. With the number of people in that age bracket doubling in the next few years, this issue is, like so many that we write about here, critical.

SOURCE: "Looming Baby Boomer Health Care Crisis; GSA Bolsters Call For Stronger Workforce" 04/18/08
photo courtesy of mishajane used according to its Creative Commons license

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