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2020 Senior Care Trends: Value-Based Care, Alzheimer’s Disease, Affordable Housing, and Workforce Shortage Challenges Take Center Stage

Several trends will dominate the senior services landscape in 2020. According to Louis J. Woolf, President and CEO of Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of older adults, “It is an exciting time to be in senior services. Progress is being made on several fronts such as value-based care, affordable housing with supports, innovative treatments and care for people living with Alzheimer’s, and tackling other hard issues like ensuring we have a diverse and trained workforce to care for the growing number of seniors who need our help.”

According to Woolf, the following will be trending in 2020 for older adults and their caregivers:

• Value-based care and new integrated care models: Will 2020 be the year of more value-based care across the full continuum from senior living, to health care, to what matters most at end of life? While we’re making very good progress, we are not quite there yet. Recognizing the power of this entire continuum in value-based care will move slowly in 2020. Providers will continue to shift focus from fee-for-service to outcomes and patient-centered care within traditional health care services, with increasing focus on prevention. But incorporating both ends of the spectrum—optimizing where seniors live and how they receive end-of-life care—is another level of inclusion and it is still in its early stages of formulation. It’s been said that value-based care takes a community. However, health care organizations continue to primarily look inward, and are not yet optimally integrating with nontraditional partners. A positive sign is that one large hospital in Massachusetts is piloting an in-house program offering rent support to patients at risk of homelessness. This is a terrific way to deliver better health, better quality of life, and lower costs.

• More affordable supportive housing solutions: A major contributor to extending the continuum would be recognizing that affordability, accessibility, and supportive services are critical needs in senior housing. They can’t come fast enough. Hebrew SeniorLife is working closely with the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission to demonstrate the health, satisfaction, and cost benefits of supportive services in senior affordable housing, and in 2020 the organization hopes to develop replicable models of care and payment for this most vulnerable population in these much-needed settings. For example, when people decide to live at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Center Communities of Brookline, they gain access on campus to a wellness nurse, a care coordinator, and a variety of other health and social services. These health services provide specialized care to keep residents healthy and independent.

• Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias: Awareness of Alzheimer’s disease is at an all-time high, as more older adults are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias on a daily basis. This attention has resulted in more organizations working on the diagnosis and management of the disease, as well as treatment protocols that hopefully will lead to a cure. Recently, the National Institute on Aging awarded a $53.4M grant to Hebrew SeniorLife and Brown University to form a research incubator with more than 30 top research organizations to fund and provide expert assistance for pilot trials and evaluate interventions for Alzheimer’s and dementia care. As this “collaboratory” proceeds, it will lead a nationwide effort to improve health care and quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as their caregivers.

• Workforce shortages: Workforce shortages challenge the health care industry across the nation. In senior services, the situation is acute. At a time when we have a growing number of seniors, with more chronic conditions and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias, we are at the same time faced with fewer geriatricians, nurses, and direct care professionals embarking on senior services career paths. Jobs in senior care are demanding and emotionally hard due to chronic conditions, behaviors seniors can exhibit, and end of life. In 2020, senior services organizations will focus more attention and respect on direct care staff and there will emerge public/private partnerships enacting real change, leveraging opportunities and removing barriers in recruiting and retaining the best care workers possible.

Source: Hebrew SeniorLife