One of the morning breakout sessions at the 2022 NCIOM Annual Meeting highlighted the needs and challenges of the care workforce for older adults. The panel was moderated by Carolyn Bird, PhD, AFC, RFC, Faculty Affairs Fellow, Office of Faculty Excellence, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor and Professor, North Carolina State University. Panelists included:
- Ellen Schneider, MBA - Associate Director of Policy and Strategic Alliances, UNC Center for Aging and Health
- Erin Kent, PhD, MS - Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Health Policy and Management, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
- Michelle Schmerge, DNP - CEO and Co-founder, Remote Health
- Ted W, Goins, Jr. - President and CEO, Lutheran Services Carolinas
The panel discussed the growing urgency for a workforce to serve the state’s increasing older adult population, both in the community and in long-term-care facilities. Some important points from the discussion included:
- The health care workforce specifically trained to serve older adults will likely never be large enough to serve the entire population, so it is important to integrate issues related to older adult health into the training of all health care providers.
- Team-based care will be a vital tool for serving the older adult population.
- The workforce that cares for older adults is simultaneously aging and retiring in large numbers and becoming part of the older adult population themselves, leaving fewer workers to serve the growing population.
- Technology can be both helpful and harmful for the aging population, on one hand providing opportunities for independent living with easy access to help and services, and on the other hand not meeting specific needs of older adults regarding telehealth, social connection, and limited ability to eliminate some of the more taxing physical demands of long-term-care facility workers.
Some of the solutions the panel discussed included eliminating barriers to training and entering the workforce, and looking at immigration policy to bring in guest workers to fill important rolls.
The panel’s discussion is closely tied to some of the discussions of the NCIOM Task Force on Healthy Aging and an upcoming Task Force on Nursing Workforce, as well as the development of a Center on the Workforce for Health in partnership with NC AHEC and the UNC Sheps Center for Health Services Research. The North Carolina Medical Journal’s November/December 2022 issue also features a related article, titled “How North Carolina Can Best Respond to Long-Term Services and Supports Needs.”