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Phoenix Forward

What’s next for baby boomers? The reinvention of long-term care

Baby boomers enjoying recreation.

Baby boomers are masters of innovation. They’ve mobilized work through cell phone and computing technology, extended life with medical breakthroughs like the artificial heart and have improved our existence through many more advances. Now, they’re faced with what could be their biggest challenge — reshaping long-term care for their parents, and themselves.

David Foley, a faculty member in the University of Phoenix nursing program and health administration program, understands the challenges of boomers who’ve become part of the Sandwich Generation. “It’s common to see a middle-aged person caring for an aged parent while balancing the needs of children at home,” he explains, adding that nearly 50 percent of Americans 55 or older are expected to be part of the Sandwich Generation.

Foley, who has managed nurses within Cleveland’s veteran’s hospital system and served on many committees that examine the issues of long-term care, has seen how facilities have improved as a result. “Because quality of life is important to them,” he says, “boomers are demanding that the care in nursing homes be transformed for the better, and it’s like a groundswell that is changing the nature of long-term care.”

Because quality of life is important to them, boomers are demanding that the care in nursing homes be transformed for the better, and it’s like a groundswell that is changing the nature of long-term care.

“Not only are they advocating for their parents’ care, but they’re advocating for themselves,” he says, adding that boomers are making great progress when it comes to making health care facilities more holistic. Case in point: Some Veteran’s Administration hospitals are adding comfortable coffee shops where volunteers serve free coffee and boomers have an oasis in which to meet and socialize.

“At my VA hospital, we looked at changes like this from a patient-perspective — whether they benefit the patients. In this instance, the change wasn’t expensive and we found that the bistro allowed our residents to nurture their mind, spirit and body,” he explains.

And there are other changes, too. Doing away with the traditional nurse’s station makes for a more relaxed setting for patients and their visitors, according to Foley. And offering flexible scheduling provides a better patient experience.

“Bath time used to be difficult for patients because they often didn’t have a say as to when they would get assistance to bathe,” he says. “Care facilities that offer self-scheduled bath times help residents feel more in control, making for a much more relaxed environment.”

Foley believes the improvements to end-of-life care will continue as baby boomers age and continue to transform the industry. And, with the increase in U.S. longevity, we can expect that long-term care will continue to be an important issue for years to come.