Doctor reading medical records on a digital tablet.
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Unconstrained by the parameters of the traditional long-term care model, a group of experts has developed a new vision of eldercare that they say is customizable, person-centered and coordinated.

At the Center for Innovation’s 2023 conference this summer, C-suite leaders were challenged to build the aging support system of their dreams, ignoring today’s assisted living, memory care, nursing home and other long-term care models. Their vision is laid out in a new white paper, “Beyond Nursing Homes.”

The consensus is that “one size fits none,” according to the paper. 

“There will never be a single conclusion about the future of eldercare that will magically meet everyone’s needs, or help leaders build a continuum of care that serves each elder at every point along their aging journeys,” the authors stated.

Rather, they said, the future of the sector needs to start with thinking small and focusing on the older adult residents. The long-term care industry, however, is reluctant to move past its current model of care and “create something truly new and different,” the report authors stated.

“While the challenges facing eldercare in America have long been known, the industry itself cannot imagine a future for itself that doesn’t look substantially like the siloed past and present,” the report reads. “Talking about shifting care from one setting to another, improving the reputation of nursing homes in isolation, or layering new regulations onto inherently undeniable models doesn’t take us any closer to building the future care system that we all deserve.”

The white paper from CFI, the parent organization of the Green House Project and the Pioneer Network, outlines several themes that emerged from discussions about the future model of long-term care:

  • Community — The ideal eldercare system of the future must put human connection at the center of care delivery. The days of segregating older adults into age-specific communities should end.
  • Customization — The current system forces people into settings due to financial or logistical reasons. Instead, providers should offer highly customizable services that meet older adults where they are, not the other way around.
  • Care coordination — Rather than coordinating care once there is an acute health event to manage, a truly coordinated system would provide care hubs for people to access information, plot out future options and interact with independent care coordinators with no incentive to steer people into a particular service.
  • Person-centeredness — The people receiving the care and services should have input into how those services and care are provided and tailored to meet their specific needs.
  • Location diversity — The industry should move away from the one-size-fits-most world of assisted living communities, memory care communities and nursing homes to diverse settings where people of all ages live. Think everything from Airbnb-style rental models to all-age community centers with in-home supports. 
  • Futuristic technology solutions — The industry should be careful not to replace human connections with technologic counterparts, enhancing elders’ lives with technology remains a powerful opportunity. 

Relying solely on ideas and concepts presented at major industry conferences, the authors warned, is a risk for today’s aging services giants. “There will be nothing stopping outside competitors from entering the scene and redefining aging for themselves,” they said.

The paper presents guidelines for providers, residents and families to ponder in reshaping long-term care and suggests setting “massive impact goals” versus modest impact goals, embracing diverse perspectives, not focusing on avoiding risk or taking short-term profits over long-term success, and accepting being wrong sometimes.