Unsung Heroes of Long-Term Care: How Public Health Experts Are Shaping Eldercare

The growing need for long-term care means more and more professionals are involved to ensure you have access to quality care services. Many of these professionals are those you and your loved ones may never meet, but their involvement is critical.

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Unsung Heroes of Long-Term Care: How Public Health Experts Are Shaping Eldercare
7 Min Read March 23rd, 2024

The demand for long-term care services is projected to skyrocket in the coming decades, driven by a rapidly aging population. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the number of adults aged 65 and older in the United States is expected to nearly double from 54 million in 2020 to 94 million by 2060. This surge will translate to a significant increase in the need for long-term care services across the board, encompassing facilities like assisted living, memory care, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers.

Who will provide these services? How will these caregivers be managed? Who will pay for them? A report by the National Association of Home Care & Hospice Organizations (NAHC) projects a similar trend in home-based care.

The NAHC anticipates a 33.8% growth in the number of home health aides needed between 2020 and 2030, highlighting the rising demand for in-home care services for older adults who wish to age in place. 

This increasing demand underscores the need for a robust workforce of qualified care professionals across all long-term care settings to ensure quality care for our aging population. Since we are all aging, the need for quality long-term care services is a priority for us, not just our older loved ones.

Postgraduate Professionals Provide Behind-the-Scenes Support

While doctors, nurses, and aides are readily recognized for their critical roles in long-term care facilities and in-home care, there's another group quietly working behind the scenes to ensure quality care for our aging population: professionals with a Master of Public Health (MPH).

Before we delve into their achievements, we must examine the typical background of individuals with a Master of Public Health (MPH) focusing on long-term care. These professionals often come with previous experience in fields such as health care, public health, or social work. 

While a Master of Public Health (MPH) offers a comprehensive understanding of public health principles, a Public Health Graduate Certificate provides a more focused skillset, which is also highly involved in long-term care, public health, and health education. 

Their roles included nurses, social workers, health educators, and researchers. They were united by a dedication to the health of populations and enhancing the well-being of senior citizens. The MPH curriculum further enhanced their expertise, providing them with specialized knowledge in epidemiology, health policy, program development, and data analysis.

Key Professionals in Public and Private Sector

So, how do these public health experts contribute to long-term care? Their work spans both public and private sectors, impacting everything from shaping policy to ensuring resident well-being within facilities.

In the public sector, MPH graduates often work for government agencies responsible for overseeing long-term care facilities. They develop regulations and quality standards, ensuring facilities meet minimum requirements for resident care. They may also conduct inspections and analyze data to identify trends and areas needing improvement within the long-term care system. Their expertise in policy analysis allows them to advocate for increased funding for long-term care services and programs that support seniors living independently.

Within private long-term care facilities, MPH graduates play crucial roles in administration and program development. They may serve as facility administrators, overseeing staff and budgets and ensuring compliance with regulations. Their public health training makes them adept at identifying the needs of the resident population and developing programs to address them.

Here are some specific examples of how MPH professionals contribute to quality long-term care:

  • Infection Control:  Public health professionals play a vital role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases within long-term care facilities, a major concern for vulnerable residents. They develop and implement infection control protocols, train staff on proper hygiene practices, and analyze data to identify and address outbreaks quickly.
  • Chronic Disease Management:  Many long-term care residents have chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease. MPH graduates can design programs that help residents manage these conditions effectively, potentially reducing hospitalizations and improving overall health outcomes.
  • Mental Health and Socialization:  Social isolation and depression are common challenges faced by long-term care residents. Public health professionals can develop programs that promote mental well-being and social interaction, such as group therapy sessions or recreational activities.
  • Fall Prevention:  Falls are a leading cause of injury and death in long-term care facilities. MPH graduates can analyze data to identify residents at risk of falling and implement evidence-based fall prevention strategies.
  • Quality Improvement Initiatives:  The data analysis skills honed in an MPH program allow public health professionals to evaluate the quality of care within facilities continually. They can identify areas for improvement, such as staffing levels or pain management practices, and develop strategies to address them.

Beyond these specific roles, MPH graduates also play a crucial role in research. They collaborate with researchers to conduct studies on improving long-term care practices, developing new interventions, and evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs. Their research findings inform best practices and shape the future of long-term care.

Public Health Graduate Certificate - Another Key Role in Long-Term Care

Many professionals working in long-term care settings might have extensive experience in health care delivery but may lack a formal public health background. A Public Health Graduate Certificate bridges this gap by equipping them with foundational knowledge in areas like epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health policy. 

These postgraduate programs, like the public health graduate certificate offered by Augusta University, equip the professional with the latest knowledge and skills in disease prevention and health promotion. These programs often cover a broad spectrum of topics, including epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy, and community health planning, providing a well-rounded foundation for leading public health initiatives. 

These educational pursuits can inspire other community members to value and prioritize health, creating a ripple effect that enhances the community's overall health literacy and resilience.

This newfound knowledge allows them better to understand the broader public health context of long-term care and make data-driven decisions to improve resident outcomes.

Specialized Roles  

The certificate program may offer specialized tracks focused on long-term care administration, infection control, or aging populations. These targeted courses equip graduates with specific skills relevant to their area of work within long-term care facilities. For instance, someone focusing on infection control might learn about outbreak investigation protocols and best practices for preventing the spread of diseases in congregate settings.

Program Development, Implementation, and Quality Improvement Initiatives

Public health professionals can develop and implement programs to improve resident well-being. They can assist in designing programs that promote physical activity, address social isolation, or manage chronic health conditions. Their understanding of public health principles helps ensure these programs are evidence-based and have a measurable impact on resident health.

The data analysis skills gained in a graduate certificate program can be valuable for quality improvement initiatives within long-term care facilities. These professionals can analyze data on resident outcomes, staff performance, or resource utilization to identify areas for improvement. They can then collaborate with other staff members to develop and implement strategies for addressing these issues.

It's important to note that a Public Health Graduate Certificate provides a foundational understanding but may not fully prepare someone for leadership roles or independent program development. For these positions, an MPH or additional experience might be necessary.

Many People Help Ensure Quality Care

While doctors, nurses, physical and speech therapists, and aides are among the many frontline heroes in long-term care, the contributions of public health professionals with MPH degrees and postgraduate certificates shouldn't be overlooked. Their work is critical in ensuring a high standard of care for our aging population in both the public and private sectors. 

As the demand for long-term care services grows, the expertise of these public health professionals will be increasingly vital in shaping a future where all seniors can receive quality care and live fulfilling lives.

The Price of Quality Care: Why Long-Term Costs Are on the Rise

Long-term care, encompassing in-home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes, is becoming increasingly expensive. This trend concerns many families, as these services can easily drain retirement savings since health insurance and Medicare will only pay for short-term skilled care. Medicaid will pay for long-term care only when the recipient has limited income and assets.

Here's a breakdown of the key factors driving this rise:

  • Aging Population: The Baby Boomer generation, a particularly large demographic bulge, is steadily reaching retirement age. This translates to a higher demand for long-term care services, straining families and finances.
  • Workforce Shortages: The long-term care industry faces a significant shortage of qualified caregivers. This lack of personnel drives up wages, which in turn is reflected in the cost of care.
  • Inflation: The general rise in the cost of living also impacts long-term care. Facilities have to pay more for supplies, equipment, and overhead, increasing residents' costs.

The Impact

Rising costs can have a devastating impact on families. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows the financial impact today and in the future.

How would you finance future long-term care? Which accounts would your adult children liquidate first to pay for your care? Would you agree with their decisions?

Maintaining control over long-term care requires planning. By incorporating Long-Term Care Insurance into your retirement strategy, you can ensure quality care and maintain independence. Your LTC policy will cover the types of long-term care services you prefer, such as in-home care, allowing your loved ones to focus on being family.

However, Long-Term Care Insurance is subject to medical underwriting. Therefore, it is recommended that you secure coverage in your 40s or 50s. Nevertheless, if you are in relatively good health, you may find affordable options in your 60s or later.

Be sure to seek the assistance of a qualified, licensed Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who represents top-rated insurance companies. These specialists are crucial in providing professional guidance. An LTC Insurance specialist will review your age, health, and other factors to provide accurate quotes from all the leading insurance companies that offer these products.

Aging is complex, yet the aspiration to experience a retirement filled with ease and peace of mind enhances the enjoyment of your golden years. Being aware that numerous professionals are involved when you need help with daily living activities, provide supervision for dementia, and offer other services can bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones. You may not meet all the people involved, but knowing they are there working on your behalf is calming as we get older. 

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

Integrating Long-Term Care Insurance into a comprehensive retirement plan is increasingly recognized as crucial for securing a stable and comfortable future. Families are encountering growing financial challenges with an aging population and rising costs of long-term care services outpacing inflation.

Yet, long-term care encompasses more than financial concerns; it significantly impacts adult children who frequently assume the role of caregivers. Traditional health insurance and Medicare generally cover only short-term skilled services following hospitalization or acute illness, creating a notable gap in coverage for the continuous care needed for chronic conditions, cognitive issues like dementia, or the natural process of aging. 

Long-Term Care Insurance stands out as an essential response to this challenge, offering extensive coverage, including home care, assisted living, and nursing home care. One of the primary advantages of an LTC policy is the freedom to select your preferred type of care and its setting, ensuring you retain control while allowing your loved ones to focus on being family.

The time to get coverage is before you have significant health issues that often accompany aging. Most people get coverage in their 40s or 50s, but affordable options are available in their 60s and older, depending on your level of health. 

Be sure to seek an experienced, independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage that matches your age, health, and other factors. An LTC specialist will provide accurate quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies that offer long-term care solutions. This way, you can make an informed decision. 

Find the Long-Term Care Services that Match Your Loved One's Needs

The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory is a helpful tool when looking for caregivers for older family members. You can search from among over 80,000 listings nationwide. The directory from LTC NEWS makes it easy to find quality caregivers or long-term care facilities. You can look for caregivers or facilities near where you or your loved one lives and learn about their qualifications and options. And the best part is, it's free to use!

If you are a care provider, claim your free listing and even upgrade your listing (at a modest charge) - Visit the LTC News Directory Business Portal

For those with an LTC policy, LTC NEWS can help process claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. LTC NEWS, in partnership with Amada Senior Care, a nationally recognized in-home health care agency, ensures that you and your loved ones receive the quality care you deserve with the money from your LTC policy. This service comes at no cost or obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

These four LTC NEWS guides will assist you in trying to find appropriate long-term services for a loved one:

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