As our parents age, it’s natural to start thinking about long-term care. Even if your parents are in good health, there’s a good chance they will eventually need in-home nursing, assisted living, or advanced nursing home care. But there’s currently a shortage of high quality nurses that will likely affect your decision about your parents’ care.

While there are always going to be openings for different professions, there currently just aren’t enough nurses to go around. There are many new jobs created in the field on a regular basis, but tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of these jobs are left unfilled. This problem is being seen in varying degrees all around the world. Long-term care facilities are hit hard because they generally have an extremely high turnover rate.

In February 2008, the first baby boomer received her first social security check. As the baby boomers get older, there will be a greater and greater demand for long-term health care. In addition to this, health care has been improving along with life expectancy, so more baby boomers are living long enough to need long-term care than the generation before them. In addition to this, there are fewer people in the following generation left to fill the spots left open by baby boomers who are retiring. Both these factors are expected to combine to further exacerbate the current problem.

So, we know that there is a nursing shortage, and that it’s more likely to get worse than better with time, but what does this mean for seniors who will be affected by this shortage?

* Higher costs. When there aren’t that many nurses, companies will have to pay a lot more to find good ones. While wage increases will help to encourage more people to become nurses, this cost will ultimately end up getting passed onto the customer. This means you will need to pay higher costs, or rely on less comprehensive care for your parents.

* Lower-quality help. If companies are desperate to hire nurses, they are more likely to hire less qualified nurses rather than go without anyone to fill the spot. Nurses are likely to be less experienced and possibly care less about their jobs.

* Fewer nurses. Eventually, if there are not enough nurses to go around, companies will just have to function with fewer people. This means a higher patient-to-nurse ratio and less attention for each patient. It means a likely increase in mistakes made in hospitals and decreased patient care.

Many hospitals and care facilities are already seeing an increase in time to respond to patients calls, a rising number of mistakes, and more post-operative infections. While this is a serious issue, many believe higher wages and other measures being taken will promote more people to enter the field and the problem will simply correct itself. That why it is important to keep an eye on the issue and help plan for your parents’ future wisely.

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