Predictions for home care in uncertain times

Proudly sponsored by AlayaCare.

Each year, I step back from the daily rush to take stock of the home and residential care landscape, and technology’s role in enabling people who need assistance to remain safe and well. 

Reflecting on the trends of the year just been, I contemplate what elements are likely to influence your businesses when the year clocks over.

This year though, I think we can all agree, 2020 arrived and swiftly erased all plans from the whiteboard. No one could have predicted what was to come. 

So, what will follow in 2021? It’s been a hell of a year for the entire world as COVID-19 disrupted our health, our economy, our politics, and the way we work. Today, twelve months into the pandemic, and for many businesses the dark times and challenges continue, situations that were hard to imagine we now have to face as a society. 

Still, this year has brought many moments of profound humanity and light, as well as the realisation that this absolute tragedy could, in its wake, leave a world changed for the better. If you’ll allow a foray into quantum physics: the reader could be forgiven for being like Schrodinger’s Cat, caught in a state of uncertainty between optimism and pessimism as we look to the future. 

As for the future of our industry, call me an optimist. 

Last year, I made four pandemic-free predictions for the market in 2020, foreseeing: 

  1. An evolving shift from care to wellness and, with it, a commensurate set of initiatives to address the social determinants of health. 
  2. The financial wellbeing of care workers would become a strategic priority for care organisations. 
  3. A mix of funding sources would escalate in importance. 
  4. Organisations would need IT infrastructure that sets them up for success in a rapidly changing industry.

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If I were to grade those predictions against the year that was, I would say that care once again trumped wellness. 

I would say that macro labour market trends have shifted – but that safety, rather than financial wellness, topped the list of caregiver concerns. 

As for varying funding sources, I suspect many of us were on our heels trying to defend current operations as opposed to scanning for new opportunities. 

Lastly, if there ever was a year of rapid change requiring new technological solutions, 2020 was it, with the need for office staff to work remotely where possible and the need for e-records and virtual care a higher priority. 

In light of what’s transpired, I give you four more important trends that I think will shape our industries landscape in 2021.  

  1. Preference for ageing in the home will persist

The Royal Commission and COVID has made this preference more prevalent across the community.  With people living longer and the desire to stay home, this shift will leave residential care supporting higher acuity clients with greater level of comorbidities.  The scrutiny of aged care by the media throughout the events of 2020 will mean that the community demands higher quality care regardless of the setting.

Care organisation will need to find efficiencies to keep up with this higher level of expectations and look for innovative approaches to keeping people (clients and staff) safe and well.  

  1. The rise of caregiving as a career

Much of the pre-COVID economy is structurally defunct. Not all retailers, gyms, travel and entertainment purveyors or restaurants will come back. Look at Amazon’s share price. A portion of Main Street and its associated front-line service jobs have been displaced in favour of programmers and robot-like logistics jobs. In this environment, the caregiving career path – in ferociously high demand – is set to take flight. 

  • ‘Caregiver’ was one of the fastest-growing jobs pre-COVID, and also the least likely to be displaced by technology.
  • As we get COVID safety issues under control, care roles will become an increasingly important career that provides meaningful work.
  • As both a society and as employers, we need to continue to drive home the importance of this profession so that we can attract and retain staff.
  • The gig economy has been much maligned as a force that erodes workers’ rights. If done right, caregiving can provide an optimal mix of flexibility and stability. That is our challenge as an industry.
  1. Care Organisations will accelerate the shift from technology-enabled to technology-centric

As demonstrated by the events of 2020, the nexus of any organisation is no longer a physical office but instead a cloud. We’ve seen it in our business and have seen a masterful execution of this shift across AlayaCare’s client base: 

  • Effective coordination is fully possible from a coordinator’s home, and in many cases more efficient. 
  • Care managers are handling an increasing percentage of supervisory visits via telehealth.
  • Caregivers’ primary communication method with their team is through mobile apps as office visits diminish. 
  • More processes such as onboarding, and training being completed remotely and online.
  • The desire to adopt engagement tools like the Client and Family Portals has never been higher.
  • More and more aspects of the client journey can happen in their home, as improved mobile technology brings newfound possibilities with remote monitoring and virtual visits from health professionals.
  1. Improved Systems to deal with persistent change

The noise from the Royal Commission and COVID pandemic resulted in unprecedented changes in how care organisations ran their businesses.  

  • Long periods of lockdown and family access restrictions increased the need for organisations to provide in house entertainment and mechanisms for clients to communicate virtually to the outside world and their families.
  • The strict enforcement of more stringent infection control and use of PPE required more efficient ways to train employees.
  • Limitations on staff working in more than one location changed the dynamic of staffing

2021 will see most of these restrictions remain in place.

In the end, while 2020 has instructed us that any ‘predictions’ can be easily washed away, it would certainly seem that the events of this year have elevated our industry to a position of great importance globally.

Whatever the case, we must have increasingly robust and honest conversations about where our industry is headed, so that organisations and clients are set up for success and better outcomes in 2021 and beyond. To that end, do you have any predictions for next year? How do you feel about what I’ve laid out here?

May optimism come to pass after a year in which it has largely felt out of reach.

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  1. Great article. I agree with your predictions. I would add that the sector needs to do more to remove the financial barriers that prevent people leaving their current professions to be a professional Caregivers. Many of these people have cared for their own loved ones, get disenchanted with the current professions and want to make a difference in the lives of older people and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, many of these people, due their existing qualifications in other fields, are not eligible for government funded courses in Certificate 3. $3,000-$4,000 or more is a strong barrier for these people to enrol and to consider a profession as a Caregiver despite their potential and hands-on experience caring for a loved one.

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