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Change means business end or opportunity

Posted Nov 17 2009 10:00pm
News flash: some nurses are finding it hard to get a job.

What the heck? I thought we had a major nursing shortage, and wouldn’t be able to turn out nurses fast enough to fill the openings.

I wonder if it isn’t a little like 10 years ago, when everyone was talking about the coming baby boomer elder bubble. We built assisted living communities as fast as we could. Many companies didn’t survive, as the baby boomer bubble was still several years in the future and fill rates were long and arduous.

Here’s my prediction for the future: in-home care is going to skyrocket. It will become more affordable and more accessible, but not necessarily of top quality. It will, in fact, represent a real option for families who might have otherwise sought a move to assisted living for a loved one.

Perhaps the next phase of living, following the cocooning in our homes and the “stay-cations” of the recession will be the move up to a larger house on our retirement instead of downsizing – because now we’ve got the folks moving in.

Multi-generational households are the norm rather than the exception in China. “In China it is a great shame to put a parent into a nursing home,” says the author of a recent TIME magazine article (November 23, 2009, “ Five things the US can learn from China ”). The author predicts that home care will grow significantly in the near future simply out of necessity, supported by governmental programs that encourage home and family caregiving options.

After a career that spans more than 30 years in long term care, I believe that some things will change…and some things will stay the same.

We’ll have more options, because we’ll demand them, we baby boomers who are rapidly reaching our golden years.

We’ll have more autonomy, more choice and more freedom to create a living environment that works best for us.

We’ll still have providers who do things like they’ve always been done, too. You know the ones: the buildings that haven’t been touched by paint or a construction crew in 40 years, but who happily take all those tough-to-place Medicaid patients.

Will assisted living communities become the nursing home of tomorrow: the place no one wants to go unless they have no other choice; the place where “person-centered care” is a phrase that means “we’re really trying folks, but we can’t operate any differently with the massive layer of regulation we live under?”

No matter what part of the care community you represent, these are interesting times, with many more to come. I don’t think it’ll be as easy as we always thought it would be when the baby boomer bubble finally arrives. I do think that, to succeed and survive, we’ll need to focus on one simple thing: quality.

We’ll need to deliver what the customer wants (Happy hour every night? A gym and sauna on every floor? Book clubs and poker parties?). We’ll need to be bold and interesting, and deliver what we say we will.

We’ll need to be networked socially and virally, and know that every thing we promise (or every mistake we make) can reach millions over the web in seconds.

Nursing shortage? Maybe – or maybe not. What other “truths” will we see change dramatically in the coming years? Stick around – let’s find out.
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