Caring For This Generation
You’ve likely heard that the Baby Boomer generation has significantly changed things for the general population, as they are expected to live longer than previous generations. What’s unfortunate is that this doesn’t necessarily equate to good health into these advanced years, which is going to have a significant impact on healthcare. New approaches will have to be implemented to handle the chronic conditions that will follow these people into their advanced age. There will need to be a huge shift towards preventative care.
We already know there is a nursing shortage, so this increase in demand for care is certainly going to present some new challenges. However, it can also present opportunities for any nurses who have considered working with the geriatric population. We explore this scenario of Baby Boomers living longer and what this means for nursing, along with some tips on how to more effectively care for the aging.
What About the Baby Boomer Nurses?
Another factor that’s complicating this already complex situation is that many baby boomers are nurses, and they are either leaving the profession or are planning to leave. As this article put out by Bradley University notes, “As baby boomer nurses leave the medical profession, nursing institutions – both academic and professional – will need to attract a new generation of nurses to take their place to ensure that patients receive quality care.”
And while this is true, some healthcare organizations are finding new ways to hold onto their seasoned nurses. They are offering incentives to keep them in their positions longer, and suggesting options like phased retirements. Some organizations are taking steps to make work environments friendlier towards the aging nurse. Either way, though, contingencies need to be made in case these measures don’t work.
What Issues Will These Nurses Face?
As we mentioned earlier, just because people are living longer doesn’t mean these advanced years are healthy ones. Sadly, it is and is expected to continue to be fraught with medical issues. Here are some of the health challenges these geriatric nurses will face:
Of course, the fact that this generation is going to experience cancer isn’t going to shock anyone, but the numbers might. The number of cancer cases is expected to increase to 17 million and 27 million by 2030.
Many health experts have agreed that obesity has reached near epidemic levels, particularly in children and the Baby Boomer generation. And even more unfortunate is the fact the number of people who fall into the obese category will continue to increase. Not only is obesity often the root cause for other medical conditions; it is also very costly. Obese patients cost the Medicare program approximately 34% more than those within the normal BMI index.
Falls are one of the most common causes of injury among the elderly and are only expected to increase. Many have attributed this to the simple notion that they are living longer but also to the fact that they remain more active into these advanced years and are often on medication that can lead to these harmful falls. And it’s not just the falls but the fact that they cause more significant injuries as we age. The AHA, or American Hospital Association, has noted that of the more than one-third of adults 65 and older that fall, 20-30% of these result in serious injuries such as hip fractures. Compounding this, these injuries often result in a decrease in mobility and, ultimately, independence.
Another AHA study reports that the number of Americans with diabetes is expected to rise from today’s estimates of 30 million to 46 million by the year 2030. In fact, 1 of every 4 Baby Boomers (14 million people) will be living with this chronic disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease International has projected that there will be a staggering 115 million individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease/dementia in the world by 2050. The burden of this on the geriatric nursing population is quite clear.
What Do These Challenges Mean For the Healthcare System?
It doesn’t take a psychic to see that the rise in all of these medical conditions will have implications in healthcare. The shortage of healthcare professionals will continue, particularly in nursing. Because care has been so focused on cancer, the comorbidity rates are also going to present unique challenges. Some have also posited that changes in the family unit and how it is structured will lead to fewer family members willing to be caregivers. And lastly, whether federal programs are sustainable enough to handle these changes is a real concern in the healthcare industry. For better or worse, however, all of this does mean that geriatric nursing certainly equates to job stability. In fact, a recent U.S. Census has noted that more than 20 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65 by the year 2050. That’s approximately 88 million people! Only one percent of RNs are certified in geriatrics, so the math is clear. The need for RNs to treat the geriatric population will continue to increase in the coming years.
Do you have any experience or interest in working with the geriatric population? Share your experiences with us. In the meantime, check out our job openings if you’d like to work with the best of the best in stunning Coachella Valley. Also, be sure to come back for the second part of this post, which will cover the job duties of and tips for the geriatric nurse.
Originally posted on 6/9/2019