A game changer

At least 2.5 million more long-term care workers will be needed within 15 years  in order to keep up with the fast-paced growth of America’s aging population, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco.

Investigators analyzed long-term care usage trends according to residents’ age, gender and race. They then forecast those trends’ impact on the future based on different scenarios in which certain demographic groups either increased or decreased their long-term care usage.

None of the sample scenarios significantly lessened altered future demand projections for long-term care workers, said UCSF professor and study lead author Joanne Spetz, Ph.D.

“We’re looking at a big increase in jobs, no matter how the demographics play out,” said Spetz. “Filling these jobs will be a big challenge under any scenario.”

By 2030, about 20% of Americans will be 65 years or older, and 19 million older adults will require long-term care — more than double the 8 million in 2000. The long-term care careers expected to grow the most in the next 15 years include counselors, social workers, community and social service workers, and home health and personal care aides.

“Policy makers and educators should redouble efforts to create and sustainably fund programs to recruit, train, and retain long-term care workers,” researchers noted in the June issue of Health Affairs