As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are learning to live with it and mitigate its risks. While older adults have suffered disproportionately from the health impacts of COVID, they have also suffered from the effects of efforts to control its spread.
Infection rates rose in recent months, and many long-term care facilities again closed their doors to visitors. This left many families separated from elderly and disabled loved ones during the holiday period.
These separations may drag on as infection rates remain high during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months. With prolonged separations, older adults and those with disabilities may face the threat of loneliness, which is known to increase the risk of dementia, heart disease, and stroke.
“There’s a risk in not finding ways to get together safely”
These concerns were raised last month by the Chief Medical Officer at the University of Michigan, “It’s important to find ways to gather, by taking the proper precautions, with older adults rather than leaving them in isolation.”
Even in the best of times long-term care facilities were difficult to manage, staff, and operate. There’s no methodology that consistently offers residents the necessary levels of emotional and physical care at an affordable price. That’s a major reason many insurers are scaling back what they offer in long-term care products.
The future of eldercare
What’s encouraging is how innovation is coming into play to help reimagine long-term care. Rather than talking about optimizing the solutions offered through long-term care facilities, we’re talking more about age-in-place solutions for the home.
At CES 2022 in Las Vegas, there were launches of home robot products to assist with housekeeping. They join the ecosystem of companies and products in which insurers are working to help customers prevent, mitigate, and manage the risks of illness and disability.
Our teams at Accenture are working with insurance clients who have built such solutions. They are using their ecosystems to provide alternatives that allow older adults to stay in their homes and communities, feel valued, and combat the risks of loneliness.
Growing demand for humans enabled by machines
COVID-19 has shone a light on the long-standing shortage of care workers many countries are facing. By 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65. And the number of people living with dementia will be 2.5 times higher than it is today. Technology innovations can go a long way to enable human caregivers who will be in greater demand than ever.
As we look forward, we can take lessons from what’s happening in Japan. They are developing public-private approaches to long-term care insurance. These programs incorporate robotics solutions. They also provide options to women, who disproportionately assume family caregiving roles, to stay in the workforce and better prepare for their own retirement.