Rising Demand for Caregivers With Gerontology Training

Posted by Herzing Blog on Nov 8, 2021 9:43:49 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted what some experts have been saying for years: Canada must do more to make sure our health care system can meet the needs of our rapidly growing senior population.

The Canadian Medical Association said as much in its 2016 report, The State of Seniors Health Care in Canada.

The report revealed some very serious senior-care needs Canada will be facing over the coming years:

  • a 40% increase in cancer cases among seniors by 2030
  • 66% more seniors living with dementia by 2030
  • by 2041, the country's highest rate of mental illness will be among seniors
  • the number of seniors needing special care will double by 2046

The pandemic fallout showed that we are woefully unprepared to face these health care realities. We have a shortage of geriatrics specialists and care aides with gerontology training—not to mention a host of policy issues and funding shortfalls.

Here's a closer look at what is driving demand for better training and services in senior care, right now.

the covid-19 crisis

It's no secret that when the pandemic hit, seniors were most adversely affected. Older adults are at higher risk of severe disease or death from the virus due to their age and the fact that they tend to have other chronic conditions.

Nursing and seniors' homes accounted for a large proportion of cases and deaths. Statistics show that as of March 2021, more than half of all COVID-related deaths had occurred in such settings.

To make matters worse, many LTC homes have been critically short-staffed for many years, which affects the level of care each resident receives.

A 2019 report (written before the pandemic) by the Ontario Health Coalition laid this fact bare.

"In every town, in virtually every long-term care home, on virtually every shift, long-term care homes are working short-staffed. It is no overstatement to call the situation a crisis."


The rapidly expanding population of seniors in Canada

Seniors now outnumber children in Canada. And did you know that centenarians (people 100 years or more) are now Canada's fastest-growing demographic?

A growing number of longer-living seniors means greater demands on our health care system, particularly long-term care resources.

As of 2021, Canada had 198,220 long-term care beds in nursing homes. In Ontario alone, there were 38,000 people on the wait list.

And estimates show that by 2035, we'll need about 200,000 more long-term beds—effectively double what we currently have available.

Creating those beds will generate thousands of jobs for health care professionals—specifically those with gerontology training and experience in senior care.

We don't just require facilities for seniors. We need caregivers who understand and can meet their very unique and complex needs.


Home care is the best alternative to over-filled nursing homes

One of the most obvious solutions to the pressing need for more LTC beds is to create ways for seniors to remain in their own homes for longer.

A report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) concluded that 1 in 9 seniors admitted to LTC facilities in 2018-2019 could have stayed in their own homes if they'd had access to the proper supports.

This becomes even more critical in the age of COVID, since seniors in congregate care settings are both more likely to be exposed to the virus and less able to isolate effectively.

Recognizing this, many provincial governments are investing heavily in home care services. Quebec alone is spending more than $300 million to improve living conditions for the province's seniors and help keep them in their own homes.

Expanding home care services is key to helping seniors to live more independently, and with more dignity, outside of nursing homes. But to achieve that goal, we need more home health care providers who are trained in geriatrics.


Government forecasts continued demand for Geriatric Aides 

As we strive to meet the needs of our senior population, market researchers are predicting long-term demand for professionals with elder care skills.

Federal government data suggests that demographic and pandemic pressures will continue to boost staffing demands in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Working on the front line of senior care, whether in LTC facilities or home care, demands a very specific set of skills.

College training, such as Health Care Aide and Personal Support Worker programs develop those skills—but in some cases, more targeted gerontology training is needed to meet patients' needs.


Gerontology training is key for transitioning into senior-care roles

The Job Bank predicts we'll see a large number of people shifting into geriatric caregiving roles over the next 10 years. In many cases, these will be people who are currently working in related health care positions who want to specialize in senior care.

In fact, government research suggests 40% of new geriatric support jobs will be filled by people who complete gerontology training and transition into this field.

For some candidates, this will mean enrolling in a Health Care Aide or Nursing Aide college. For others who already have post-secondary training or relevant work experience, it will mean extending their knowledge with gerontology courses.

Specialized gerontology training goes beyond the practicalities of routine senior care. Students study issues like assisted dying, pain management, issues of consent, health promotion, and advanced care planning.

They look at government policy, funding, and community resources for elderly citizens. They analyze common mental health disorders, assessments tools, and treatment plans for seniors.

And they gain a greater understanding of the aging process, and how it impacts social relationships and quality of life.

This kind of training is extremely useful for anyone involved in senior health care, particularly those in front-line roles.

There is no doubt: the extent to which we build and foster these skills will directly determine our capacity to protect and care for the largest—and currently most vulnerable—population in Canada.


Interested in learning more about gerontology training?

Explore the online Gerontology Certificate offered at Kompass. This training can be completed at your own pace, between 3 and 6 months. 

Instructors are experienced health care professionals with a wealth of practical skills and tools to share.

Click below for full program details and chat live with Admissions. We're here to help!

Explore the Gerontology Certificate


Topics: gerontology certificate, gerontology training, gerontology courses, Kompass Professional Development

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