There’s a growing trend affecting how Americans are spending their older years: more and more people are aging at home–either in their single family home or in a private pay residential senior living community.
In fact, AARP reports that the vast majority (77%) of adults over the age of fifty are interested in aging in their homes long-term—without moving into long-term or skilled care facilities.
But why is this? And what does it mean for healthcare businesses? We dig in.
What Does Aging at Home Look Like?
According to the CDC, aging at home (or aging in place) is “the ability to live in one’s home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
For many older adults, aging in place means hiring outside help to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs). People who plan to age at home often don’t want to give up their community or home life. If they need outside assistance, they prefer to access it where they’re already comfortable.
Why Are Older Adults Choosing to Age at Home?
So what are some of the driving reasons that many older adults want to age in place? Many of them want to stay close with their communities and family. This can include holding onto pets, attending events and clubs that they’re attached to, and being able to easily visit friends and family.
Here are a few more reasons why more people are choosing to age in place.
To Preserve Independence
Many older adults feel that they can hold onto their independence in their own home or their residence in a senior living community. Even if their mobility becomes restricted, they still have the ability to hire someone or access staff to help them complete ADLs to the best of their abilities. Older adults may worry that they’ll be unable to achieve the same level of independence in a long-term care facility, where they may lose access to their pets, furniture, and cars.
To Stay Connected to a Community
Many adults are attached to important aspects of their community, whether that’s a favorite book club or a beloved neighbor. Community is incredibly important— and, older adults may fear that moving into a skilled nursing facility will remove their community entirely. While not necessarily the same as a familiar community, most long-term care residences do have their own clubs, organizations, activities, and other opportunities to socialize.
To Avoid the Stigma Against Nursing Homes
Older adults may be interested in aging in place due to the stigma associated with skilled nursing communities. Long-term skilled care facilities often are associated with certain myths: that they’re unstimulating, isolating, or that residents experience a total loss of independence. But for many long-term communities, this isn’t at all the case. Still, this stigma persists and continues to affect older Americans’ decisions about aging in place.
Two Affected Sectors: Home Health Care and Assisted Living
The rise of aging in place has greatly affected the home health and skilled nursing industries, albeit in different ways. Here are some of the challenges (and solutions) for both industries as they navigate the needs and wants of older adults in America today.
The desire to age in place affects long-term care on every level. First and foremost the increased interest in aging at home may mean that fewer people are interested in coming to assisted living communities. Long-term care facilities have to compete against home health in order to remain a viable option for older adults. They need to create an atmosphere and culture that competes with the home environment that aging adults could have on their own.
Here are some strategies senior and assisted living communities can adopt to remain competitive as more people choose to age in place.
Create a Sense of Home
In order to attract older Americans, nursing facilities must work hard to create an atmosphere that is warm, comfortable, and feels like home. This may involve redesigning physical spaces, incorporating personal belongings and decorations, and providing opportunities for residents to take ownership of their living spaces. It also involves creating a robust sense of community, with plentiful activities and clubs.
Focus on Retention and Continuity
High turnover can lead to a lack of continuity. An older adult could form bonds with their caregivers, only to have them leave the facility. And when this happens again and again, it can be demoralizing. When patients don’t see the same people every day, it’s hard for the facility to really feel like home.
While it isn’t necessarily realistic to have residents interact with the exact same people every day, having familiar faces can do wonders for both continuity of care and community. But with high rates of turnover, few facilities can offer this sense of long-term consistency. Instead, they’re focused on filling open positions in order to ensure everyone gets an ideal level of care. Filling open roles is vital, but this immediate perspective might not do enough to build a long-term vision of care and community.
What Challenges Does Aging at Home Pose for Home Health Care Agencies?
When older adults choose to age at home, they’re likely to require assistance from home health care workers. But the high demand for home health services makes hiring a challenge for agencies. How can home health agencies hire rapidly and keep up with rising demand?
Hire in Order to Keep Up With Demand
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for home health aides (HHAs) will grow 25% between 2021 and 2031—much faster than the average profession. Agencies need to be proactive about hiring in order to meet this increase in demand, especially as more adults choose to age in place. This means optimizing every stage of the hiring process, from posting the ultimate job description to conducting fast background checks that don’t sacrifice quality.
Hiring is only half the battle. Agency recruiters will never be able to catch their breath if they continue to battle high levels of turnover. Most home health agencies report turnover levels of over 21%. This challenges home healthcare agencies’ ability to provide high-quality care in a strained system. Agencies will need to create career paths, provide professional development, and get creative with compensation and benefits in order to retain employees.
Better Hiring With Apploi
Regardless of whether you’re hiring for home health or skilled nursing, you need the right software on your side. Apploi’s all-in-one platform can help you hire the best healthcare workers for your organization. Manage payroll, schedule shifts, and post to job boards all on the same platform. Schedule a demo today.