Shortages in the caregiving space are increasing as the workforce shrinks alongside a growing senior population. In our last blog post, we discussed potential interventions across the public and private sectors to alleviate the growing burden on seniors and their families. Along with policy reform and innovation in the insurance market, technology and the rise of artificial intelligence may play a role in providing for the extent of elder care needs in the coming years. By 2040, there will be an estimated shortage of 355,000 paid care workers, and the unpaid caregiving shortfall will be an astonishing 11 million.
Given rising awareness of the aging baby boomer generation and the implications of a rapidly aging U.S. population, advancements in robotics are being applied to workforce shortages and enabling more Americans to age in place. Technologies range from wearable exoskeletons, designed to physically assist seniors with day-to-day tasks like getting in and out of bed, toileting, and moving around the house independently, to autonomous robots which are currently being used in care facilities to deliver clinical supplies, meals, and medicines, as well as social robots designed to keep seniors mentally engaged and reduce the risks of social isolation and loneliness. HCG Secure is excited to have partnered with the digital care companion organization, ElliQ, to help our members maintain routine, mental clarity, and to reduce isolation while aging at home.
While none of these devices are likely to replace the role of caregivers in the home or in care facilities, supplementing human-to-human care with technology can ease the burden on both paid and unpaid caregivers, as the United States attempts to keep up with the growing needs of aging adults. The technology, such as exoskeletons and autonomous robotic devices, help with physical needs, and are likely to reduce the time caregivers spend with care recipients, such that more aging adults can be attended to, and they may delay the need for in-person care. When small tasks become difficult to manage independently but full-time support is not yet needed, tech-enabled resources can serve as an intermediate step. Similarly, the social devices can help keep seniors engaged; thus, delaying cognitive decline, and they can help connect people with phone or video calls, reducing the need for perpetual in-person care. These innovations may be especially effective in the short-term, as policy iterations and legislative impacts are likely further off than private sector inventions. While some combination of public and private sector interventions will be necessary to adequately support the aging U.S. population, the use of technology in home care is a personal decision, and one which has the potential to advance the accessibility of aging-in-place and the length of time seniors may be able to stay safely and independently in the home.