Training the Direct Care Workforce to Meet the Needs of Our Aging Population

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

When it comes to caregiver training, the aging of America is a crisis for which much of healthcare and the direct care industry is not preparing. Statistics about what is often called “the silver tsunami” headed for the American population are staggering. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 60 million people who are 65 years of age or older, and they'll count for at least 20% of the U.S. population. Importantly, the people who are most at risk for chronic disease and account for 75% of all healthcare spending also are 65 or older. In fact, 80% of all people aged at least 65 have at least one chronic disease. This aging of the population and its expanded healthcare need is going to require significant growth in the healthcare workforce, especially among direct care workers providing home-based care. Also important for the home care workforce is that 90% of the population prefers to age in place. To satisfy this preference, even more home care staff will be necessary to meet the growing need.

An Expanding Need for Training

Demographic change requires the home-based direct care industry to expand employees’ ability to assist people living at home to age gracefully. The industry will have to adopt tools and training that facilitate that mission. As healthcare needs multiply, the direct care workforce will need to work across the care continuum to support a needier population. Another spur for the unprecedented growth of this workforce is tied to the expansion of Medicare Advantage plans, which provide reimbursement for private duty care. With this reimbursement comes higher patient expectations, as well as the hope that better training and preparation will exist for care workers at every level. As healthcare systems and home care collaborate more significantly in pursuit of a higher level of value-based care, training will play an important role.

More Attention to Every Part of the Care Continuum

To improve patient outcomes and experiences, more attention is being paid to the lifecycle of care that extends from physicians through the hospital to direct care workers and family caregivers. While everyone within the direct care industry already is aware that the industry and its caregivers have a great impact on the lives of the older adults they serve, other parts of the continuum are paying more attention. That makes it imperative to refocus the nature of the work, enhance and strengthen care quality, and emphasize the importance of the direct care workforce in the continuum of care.

Workforce Challenges to Overcome

Some significant challenges exist to the ability of the home care industry to meet its responsibilities. Accommodating industry growth has preoccupied the sector, with 54% estimated growth in the employee base and 7.8 million direct care staff openings between 2016 and 2026. The human resources need alone would overwhelm most organizations. Retaining staff is also a huge issue, with 57% turnover in the first 30 days and 82% immediate turnover within the first 90 days. How can an organization working in this industry solve staffing problems of that magnitude? A new approach to training and career paths must be initiated. Learn more in a subsequent blog post.

This blog post is the first in a series based on the HealthStream webinar, “Building a Pipeline of Home Health Talent: It Starts with Training,” presented by Helen Adeosun, CEO and co-founder of HealthStream’s partner, CareAcademy. This webinar focuses on the value of training the direct care workforce to increase their value and stature as part of the care continuum, especially for learning’s impact on retention and outcomes. With experience in training and in caregiving, Adeosun has focused her career on driving outcomes for adult learners, and especially in finding meaningful ways for them to engage in learning.

Learn more about HealthStream clinical development solutions for the continuum of care.