Mar 08, 2017

Improving the Health Care Workforce for Older Australians

People, on average, are living longer. The UN predicts that by 2030, one in six people will be over the age of 60. As innovations are made in technology and medicine, and we learn more about health and nutrition, it’s no surprise that the life expectancy of the general population is increasing. But is the healthcare workforce able to keep up with the ageing demand?

The healthcare workforce needs to be better equipped for what’s coming ahead, as well as the needs of the elderly now. This can mean a variety of things, from more aged care staff and home care services to more geriatric specialists.

Aged Care

Aged care, as an industry, is dedicated to taking care of the elderly. Despite many residents being frail and having medical issues, some are living well into their 90s which is why the aged care industry has grown exponentially in the past few years.

As people are living longer, it means that there are more residents who are in advanced dementia. Aged care facilities need to be able to care for large groups of people who have dementia, and care for people in the last stages of their life.

The workforce are also ageing along with the users of aged care – the average age of people who work in aged care is 45. And as this workforce ages, there aren’t enough new staff to keep up with the sector demands.

GPs

General Practitioners are often the first touch point for anyone who has a medical concern. With older people using GPs more than younger people, it’s important that the GP are able to tackle the health concerns of the elderly.

One of the most important things GPs need to be able to tackle with ageing Australians is recognising and correctly diagnosing dementia. An early diagnosis is essential to allow the person to make decisions while they are still capable.

Hospital Care

People over the age of 85 make up 7% of hospital admissions, and this number is increasing every year. As people get older, hospitals need to able to take on more elderly patients. There is also a need for more acute and palliative care for older people.

For a hospital workforce, there is a demand for more doctors who specialise in geriatric medicine, as well as the overall staff to support with patients who have dementia. Some people with dementia have difficulties in communicating and hospital staff need to be aware of how to manage their care. Nurses and allied health positions should also have some specialisation in geriatric care as well. The best way to enforce this is through more training.

Overall, the whole healthcare industry needs to be prepared for the increased amount of older Australians that will be over the age of 65 in the next few years. The biggest issues that need to be tackled today is increasing the number of staff who work with the elderly, with increased training, making staff more adept to caring for older people and, in particular, people with dementia.

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