Houston Matters

As Boomers Age, Care Providers Fear A ‘Silver Tsunami’

Staff turnover in nursing homes and Medicaid shortfalls paint a grim picture for the future of Texas seniors.

Health care professionals call a coming surge of retirees in Texas “a perfect storm,” and are raising concerns the state may not be able to care for its aging population.

A report from the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) details what the group is calling the “silver tsunami,” a rapid increase in the number of Texas seniors in the near future.

The number of Texans over 65 years old is expected to reach more than 9 million by the year 2050, growing at a rate outpacing other age groups. For comparison, Texas had 2 million people over 65 in 2010.

Kevin Warren is president and chief executive at the Texas Health Care Association. Speaking on Houston Matters, he pointed to two main challenges that come along with an aging population: workforce availability and the cost of care.

Listen to the full conversation below, with an additional conversation with Janet Jackson-McCulloch of Elder Advisory Group:

Staff in nursing homes has a high level of turnover, and currently, Medicaid reimbursements pay less than the actual cost of care in Texas at a shortfall of $26.91. The two, combined with an expected increase in the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease, paint a grim picture for Texas seniors of chronically underfunded and understaffed nursing care.

At the same time, the THCA report details “an unsustainable burden for family caregivers,” as the number of adults aged 45-65 is expected to grow at a rate slower than that of those over 65. “This asymmetrical pattern means the people who will be caring for senior Texans will increasingly be seniors themselves,” the report explains. Additionally, family caregivers provide an estimated 24.4 hours of unpaid care per week which will have to be transferred, and therefore further strain, the elder care industry.

Each factor combined illustrates the need for reform in the way Texas cares for its seniors, the THCA says. Currently, the group is looking towards the next state legislative session and working with lawmakers to come up with solutions.

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