National trend data acknowledges the fact that caregiver labor shortages will worsen over the next 20 years. Washington State, like the rest of the country, will be affected by these shortages, as well as the lack of medical providers in the state with geriatric expertise. The Washington plan on aging, prepared by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services in accordance with the Older Americans Act, specifically focuses on the state’s long-term care system and its dependence on unpaid family caregivers, long-term care workers, and medical providers of geriatric services.
In Washington State, it is projected that the 65+ population will represent one-fifth of the population by 2030. The Washington plan notes that it is essential to identify strategies to both address the demographic changes that will take place throughout the state due to this growing older population, as well as the intensifying long-term care financing challenges. Amongst these changes are a need to advocate and plan for the increased demand for quality services and increased community support for aging in place.
Other plan highlights include:
- Top five aging services of importance to older adults in Washington State are prevention of elder abuse and neglect, personal care services that help people stay in their homes, nutritional meals delivered to home, transportation to appointments and other services, and information and assistance.
- Family caregivers provide nearly 80 percent of services that help family members remain at home. This value of unpaid service is the equivalent of $7.9 billion annually in paid care.
- A combination of the growing population needing care and smaller family size has combined to decrease the ratio of caregivers to those needing care. In 1990, it was estimated that there were about 11 caregivers per person needing care, but by 2050 this ratio will be four to one.
- The plan reports that in order for home and community services to grow and meet increasing demands, it is essential that there is continued support for individuals hiring family and friends as direct care workers, and that there are incentives for individuals looking for a career in the helping professions.
How to Use
This plan is packed with interesting information on caregiving support, especially the need for providing flexible supports to family caregivers in order to enable them to continue providing needed services. It highlights the importance of government officials providing information and assistance to older adults and family caregivers, as well as strategies that can be used to help individuals plan for and pay for some or all of their future care needs. There is also a great deal of information on leveraging and integrating resources, including state government support. Additionally, Washington State has a strong long-term care system that is discussed throughout the plan and can be used as a model for other local officials and planners. Lastly, the program highlights detailed throughout the document can serve as case studies for other states.
View full report: Washington State Plan on Aging – 2010-2014 (PDF – 587 KB)