While home care continues to face staffing challenges, the demand for home care is on the rise. With an aging generation of baby boomers, the home care industry’s historic low wages, and the burnout that often comes with providing care, the struggle to find quality and long-term staff is rising alongside the demand.
We spoke with several home care executives about the future outlook of home care, the trends they’re noticing, and what they believe agencies need to prepare for to remain competitive. We’ve included their responses at the end of this blog. But first, let’s look at eight trends in home care.
1. Franchising of Home Care
In an unpredictable economy, individuals may be considering new career trajectories that prioritize community, security, and personal satisfaction — which home care can provide, especially with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each year.
With COVID-19-related operational challenges, those looking to open home care facilities will be in the market for experienced guides, which a franchise model can offer. Going into an industry with a roadmap for success will feel safer and more appealing than building a model independently — and potentially even more so for those looking to make a career change in the wake of the pandemic.
Franchise growth won’t be solely attributable to new owners in the market; we expect to see independent-to-franchise conversions, as well. In addition, due in part to the challenges of navigating Paycheck Protection Program loans and COVID-19, owners will start to look toward franchising their care homes to ease the burden of figuring out these details on their own.
2. Caregiver Shortage Continues to Surge Against a Rising Demand
The average pay of home care workers lands between $9 to $12 per hour, which isn’t much considering the cost of living in the United States. Caregiver shortages are surging, but low wages aren’t drawing many people to the profession to mitigate the issue.
Given the intimate nature of their jobs and constant exposure to multiple people, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted just how critical home caregivers are and how risky the job can be. President Biden has recently laid out plans to increase the minimum wage to $15, almost double what it is currently in some states, which will force many agency operators to pay their workers significantly more.
3. Tech to Ease Rising Caregiver Demands
While no one appears to believe technology will replace human caregivers, technology such as apps, digital tools, and artificial intelligence is expected to significantly ease the demands placed on those in the profession. Mark H. Friedman of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore says that technology could help caregivers in several capacities, such as remote monitoring, capturing vitals, medication reminders, and abnormality alerts.
With technology possibly easing the workload of caregivers, care agencies may be able to afford enough staff to meet the rising staffing demands of the industry.
Further, isolation and loneliness are common experiences for seniors. However, with technological advancements, seniors have more opportunities to interact and connect with their loved ones and the world around them. These additional options are expected to help facilitate engagement through video chats with family and friends and promote cognitive stimulation through music and podcasts.
Greater cognitive engagement could potentially prolong brain health, which could help seniors rely less on their caregivers and contribute to a greater quality of life.
4. Better Support, Pay, and Training for Caregivers
Trends in the home care industry and numerous studies and personal accounts have shown that better training, support, and pay lead to higher caregiver retention rates. Quality caregiver training, in particular, seems to help caregivers feel confident in providing quality care and allowing agencies to retain quality workers.
Agency management personnel aren’t the only ones who can help turn around the retention issue. Care organizations can partner with hospitals, rehab centers, physicians, and hospice organizations to help generate change and push for better training, support, and pay. In addition, greater incentives and support for caregivers could help retain quality professionals and potentially improve the industry for everyone involved.
5. Companionship Services to Ease Loneliness Among Elderly
Companionship is critical to seniors’ well-being, as many seniors live alone after their spouses or life partners die. Seniors may lack transportation, and have limited mobility, hearing, and eyesight, which can interfere with their ability to socialize.
The coronavirus has only added to the loneliness epidemic, which already existed before its arrival.
According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults aged 45 years and older struggle with loneliness, making companionship services a high priority for care agencies. Early home health care trends show that agencies are expected to ramp up companionship services and that clients and families will seek agencies that include this in their care.
Some are skeptical of companionship as a business idea. However, the startup Papa — which offers services in all 50 states — is proving these skeptics wrong. Papa pairs seniors with a person who will call, video chat, and visit in person, offering life-changing support to lonely seniors.
6.Rise of Remote Care
While telehealth provides a way to check in on people, it doesn’t allow healthcare providers to collect vital signs. Remote patient monitoring, or RPM, is the solution to that problem.
RPM has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly as COVID-19 has put greater pressure on doctors to see more patients.
RPM allows for real-time data, letting care providers make necessary adjustments to treatment when controlling symptoms and disease advancement. The ability to do all RPM from home can be incredibly comforting for many patients.
RPM is expected to play a greater role in home care in 2022 and beyond.
7. Venture Capitalists Looking to Change the Market
Venture capitalists likely aren’t what you imagine when you think of trends in home health care. However, venture capitalists seek growth opportunities, the home care industry is experiencing substantial growth, and the market is overdue for disruption.
Most home care agencies are dominated by mom-and-pop style owners, and are therefore difficult to scale. In addition, agencies and owners are often overrun with existing duties, and expanding their business isn’t something they can consider. Venture capitalists offer the financial backing to help home care agencies scale, and VC investors will also likely be supporting services such as companionship, personalized in-home care, group care homes, and more.
8. Caregiver Recruitment & Retention Programs
Caregivers are essential to the success of a home care agency. A significant home health care trend in 2022 will be prioritizing the recruitment and retention of home care workers. Turnover in the industry is high, and recognizing that caregivers are the link between clients and businesses is imperative for success in the home healthcare industry.
Trends in the home care industry will begin to shift, focusing more on hiring the right people for the position rather than simply filling a role with a body. Organizations that deliberate about who they’re hiring and prioritize ongoing training will benefit from greater retention and employee satisfaction.
Identifying areas for improvement will help agencies remain competitive, increase employee and client satisfaction, and generate greater revenue.
Home health care trends will be a hot topic in 2022 as the senior population grows. Expect to see increased home care franchising, remote patient monitoring, technological innovation, and companionship services.
With staffing challenges, agencies will be forced to take a hard look at who they hire and how they hire and retain their employees. Keeping up with the trends in home health care will help your agency stay competitive, remain lucrative, and be successful.
Now it’s time to see what the home care executives we talked to said.
14 Execs Share Their Thoughts on Home Care Trends To Watch For in 2022
How do you do this while keeping your doors open? How do you pay your employees more without also negatively impacting your customers? These are questions that must be answered in order to help those who need it.
With capablitlites such as remote monitoring, the ability to capture vitals, medication reminders, trend tracking, alerts to anomalies, and telehealth, we can keep our clients safer and healthier. Exciting new solutions such as remote care monioring with a virtual care assitant further enhance hands on care.
With additional options to facilitate engagement, interactive programming, video chats with family and friends, online cognitive stimulation, and music and podcasts, we can alleviate isolation and loneliness and expand opportunities for seniors to interact with others and the world around them.
In the end, Home Care must embrace technology not only to support day to day operations but also to facilitate an improved client experience and to configure care appropriately between hands on support, safety net, engagement and health monitoring.
Gloreen Heft, LPN
This issue will be front and center as companies try to balance what they have to pay their caregivers versus what they will need to charge in order to maintain profitability. In our major metropolitan area (DC/MD/VA) most caregivers are from foreign countries. Many are the sole wage earners and wire funds back to their families in their home countries on a regular basis. Inflationary pressure will continue to have a negative residual effect on the value of the US dollar, pushing hourly wages upward while the demand for employees continues to slam head-on into the short supply of available workers. Caregivers who are still willing to work home health care jobs will continue to be able to demand higher wages as they see their value as workers increase in the real world market.
At the same time workers' wages are being driven upward by market influences and inflation, caregivers continue to exit jobs from institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes in numbers never before seen prior to COVID-19. Many are seeking private duty cases which further contributes to inflated hourly wages and in turn higher rates that need to be charged by companies in order to stay profitable in business. This upward trend in workers' wages combined with increases in workers compensation insurance, professional and general liability insurance (20-30 percent increases due to COVID-19 in some cases), unemployment and other types of insurance, will continue to maintain upward pressure on home health markets and what agencies charge customers well into 2022 and beyond.
Unfortunately, the net result will be home care and home health costs that will become increasingly unaffordable for the majority of elderly clients who need help the most. These wage and rate increases will place further stress on households caring for loved ones, families and the healthcare system in general well into the end of this decade.