By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
In the past, nursing homes were largely regarded as an elderly person’s final residence. After living a long and independent life and then suffering a debilitating injury or chronic illness that compromises their independence, it was generally accepted that the person would be more than happy to spend the rest of the life in a state of peaceful rest and relaxation, playing cards in the community room and having their every personal needs taken care of. This may all change with the aging baby boomers.
Aging members of the baby boomer population notoriously relish their independence, freedom and resilience. This will likely extend to their attitude on illness, injury and their expectations for recovery. Add to the mix the fact that seniors in this demographic are working longer and therefore are most likely transitioning directly from an active work and personal life directly to injury and illness, with no traditional retirement hiatus in between. Occupational therapists and traveling occupational therapists already working with this age group are probably seeing their patients’ distinct unwillingness to rest or relax after suffering a health setback – no matter how severe. In fact, occupational therapy is a hot service item in nursing homes for patients who, rather than settling into the role of “nursing home resident” are using the facilities as temporary rehabilitation pit stops between injury and recovery.
Consider that as of 2008 there were 78 million baby boomers, well over 4000 long term care facilities such as nursing homes and 1.4 million residents in those facilities. As patients in this demographic start seeking out occupational therapy versus bingo on a regular basis, the demand for occupational therapists and travel occupational therapists may increase even more than already predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (23 percent by 2016).
Additional Sources Used: U.S. Census Bureau
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.