Elderly people are not all getting the care or quality of life they deserve in their senior years. The problem, it seems, is not the lack of resources but in the way these resources have been directed. Overall, the sector of long-term senior care (LTC) has a glaring shortage in the workforce. Many of the workers are not satisfied with the low pay and prestige nor with the lack of career opportunities.
Luigi Franciosi is an adjunct professor in pharmacology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He sees a shift in strategy towards providing a more comprehensive long-term senior care system. “We used to think,” he says, “that we could rely on the traditional workforce to fill the shortage in LTC labor. But that was a mistake. The market laws of supply and demand don’t apply here. We must recognize LTC as a sector in its own right and we need to rethink the whole business model to better understand and meet the complex requirements of the clients.”
The LTC Map
Contrary to what many believe, the term long-term care doesn’t just apply to senior citizens living in assisted living homes. The facilities that cater for geriatric patients are diverse. They include patients who live in their own homes as well as those residing in assisted living facilities, adult daycare, care retirement communities, and rehabilitation centers. In addition, many LTC facilities cater to certain senior citizens with specific needs. Both nursing facilities and skilled nursing facilities belong to this category.
According to Luigi Franciosi, this vast network of homes for seniors is supported by a chain of LTC pharmacies. These are pharmacies better equipped to supply the patients of this group with the medical supplies they need. The pharmacies have a dedicated team in various disciplines who handle the demanding tasks of caring for the patients in any of these facilities.
Current Issues with LTC
Despite this array of options, when it comes to LTC facilities, many senior citizens would go out of their way to avoid them. This, despite the fact that most of the government resources are poured into these senior care homes. The way Luigi Franciosi sees it, this is one of the biggest issues facing the whole LTC sector. “Many family members,” he says, “feel guilty for having their parents to go and live in one of these facilities despite knowing that it is for the best.”
There are many reasons why geriatric patients would prefer to live in their own homes rather than join a nursing home. The rigid hours, constrained conditions, and having to share a bath or even a room with a total stranger are some of these reasons. These are too drastic lifestyle changes that elderly people are expected to adapt to and accept.
Focus on Quality of Life
To convince the elderly that a nursing home with around-the-clock trained staff and continuous medical care is better for them in the long run than the comfort of their own homes, changes must be made to the current system especially with a large percentage of the population beginning to reach the age of retirement and potentially needing LTC in the near future. One of these changes, in the words of Luigi Franciosi, is the focus on the quality of life. “We need to show patients,” he adds, “that the quality of their lives will improve when they move into one of these homes. We can do this by improving the safety, order and security in nursing homes, and invest more in providing more physical comfort for the patients.”
A better quality of life in a nursing home also includes engaging the guests in meaningful activities that give them a sense of accomplishment. Moreover, there should be a focus on nurturing friendships and fostering loving relationships among the members to bring joy to their lives and give them something to look forward to in their old age.
Future Trends in Senior Care
As more and more people reach that age when they need to be cared for by others, the whole concept of long-term senior care should adapt to this growing demand. One of the ways to adjust to the rising numbers of senior citizens, according to Luigi Franciosi, is to implement better technology. From phone apps that remind them of their medication time, to using GPS to locate an elderly person who gets lost, technology will certainly have a bigger role in improving the quality of life of the seniors in the coming years. In the near future, we might even see virtual robot assistants that help the aging adult stay engaged and active in their golden years.