Scary news. As the first of the nation’s 78 million baby boomers reach age 65 in 2011, they face a health care work force that is too small and woefully unprepared to meet their specific health needs, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The report calls for initiatives, starting immediately, to train all health care providers — not just specialists — in the basics of geriatric care. It also calls for more training for family members and other informal caregivers, who currently receive little or no training in how to tend to their aging loved ones. Medicare, Medicaid, and other health plans should pay higher rates to boost recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists and care aides, says the committee that wrote the report.
“By 2030, one in every five Americans will be 65 or older. We face an impending crisis as the growing number of older patients, who are living longer with more complex health needs, increasingly outpaces the number of health care providers with the knowledge and skills to care for them capably,” said committee chair John W. Rowe, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University.
Almost all health care providers treat older patients to some extent, so they need a minimal level of competence in treating the common health problems related to aging, the committee concluded. All health professional schools and training programs should expand coursework and training in the care of older individuals. Between 29 million and 52 million caregivers tend to aging parents or other older individuals.
The full report can be found at www.iom.edu/agingAmerica.