What Can Providers Do to Curb the Growing Long-Term Care Crisis?
America’s long-term care crisis has been called the “Silver Tsunami,” but that label suggests an event that strikes with little warning. The earth rumbles. The waves rise. Within hours, an at-risk coastline is inundated by massive waves. The long-term care crisis, on the other hand, has been building for years. Despite warning signs, including the contingent of Baby Boomers moving towards retirement age, long-term care options remain limited. As we look to the future of geriatric medicine and American healthcare, it is clear that providers need to actively engage healthcare consumers. Psychographic segmentation can offer insights to help providers deliver the right message to the right people.
Coming Up Short on Long-Term Care
Why are we in the midst of a long-term care crisis? A Healthcare Finance article suggests that the unwavering focus on addressing uninsured healthcare consumers has, in fact, allowed the long-term care problem to grow. The article identifies four issues that represent the problem at its core:
Let’s look at each factor on its own.
- Awareness isn’t about acknowledging that the U.S. has an aging population. That much is obvious. Awareness—or rather the lack of it—relates to the fact that people often avoid talking about aging. Yet such conversations are needed, and the conversations need to take place earlier. Seniors need to understand long-term care options while they’re still living independently. The children of aging parents—many of whom are nearing retirement age themselves—need resources to stimulate and direct conversations so that when the need arises, care options have already been considered.
- The cost of long-term care must also be addressed earlier. Thanks to medical advances, Americans are living longer. But as demographer Lloyd Potter noted in an interview with the Texas Tribune, “One of the aspects of people living longer is they also live more years with disability. They require additional care, because now we’re able to live longer with those conditions.” As a result, retirement savings need to stretch further—and for many, the cost burden of long-term care and medical expenses drains finances all too quickly, leaving family members to pick up the slack.
- The limited availability of affordable long-term care options significantly impacts accessibility. As the Healthcare Finance article points out, “By 2030, nearly one fifth of our population will be over the age of 65 and 70 percent of them will require some form of long-term care. Without a viable infrastructure for providing senior independence, there will continue to be a large portion of seniors who must rely on already over-stretched family members for long-term care.” Family caregivers often sacrifice their own finances and health in the process, which only exacerbates the issue in the long term.
- Gender may seem like a surprising addition to the list, but the Family Caregiver Alliance estimates the 66 percent of unpaid caregivers are women. They often sacrifice their own careers and incomes in order to provide care for an aging relative. What’s more, Healthcare Finance says, “We cannot ignore the fact that the face of poverty in old age is distinctly the face of a woman.” Somehow, providers need to find ways to support women who are sandwiched between responsibilities for their own families as well as for aging relatives.
As waves of aging Americans continuing to roll in at a rate of 10,000 people turning 65 daily, the long-term care crisis will only worsen. What can the healthcare industry do now to curb this growing crisis? Start communicating with healthcare consumers immediately. Not with a one-size-fits-all approach that will only reach a fraction of the target audience, but with custom communications that are developed with the help of psychographic segmentation.
Psychographic segmentation allows one to understand the attitudes and motivations of various healthcare consumer groups, which is key to effective communication, patient engagement and activation. A specific psychographic segment reacts differently to messaging and communication tactics relative to other psychographic segments. Understanding the attitudes and motivations of the various segments can help providers develop more engaging campaigns to address health issues that contribute to the need for long-term care and support the unpaid caregivers that step in to help aging loved ones.