Caring for an Aging Population: Quality, Workforce, and the Patient Experience

The “silver tsunami” – a growing population of older people with increasing healthcare needs – is upon us. Demographic and workforce trends also forewarn shortages in the healthcare workforce. This panel discussed strategies to meet the healthcare needs of our aging population, while maintaining and improving Wisconsin’s high-quality care environment.



John Vander Meer
Wisconsin Health Care Association, Executive Director


Lindsay Jacobs
La Follette School of Public Affairs, Assistant Professor

 Debra Kolste
Wisconsin State Legislature, Representative                       

 Theresa Pichelmeyer
Valley VNA, President and CEO

Top Takeaways from Panelists:

  • The population of older adults in Wisconsin will rise greatly in the coming decades. This represents an increase in the share of the population as well, meaning that for each person in need of care there will be fewer people who can provide care. However, a continuum of need – from moderate assistance to acute care – offers opportunities for good policy, especially in supporting informal and formal home-based care.
  •  In the past two years, the vacancy rate for caregivers increased from every 1 in 5 positions to every 1 in 4 caregiving positions. Caregiving is hard work, but it’s also heart work. It takes a special type of person to enter this field.
  •  We are facing three main problems from the provider perspective: workforce, reimbursement rates, and quality of care. The workforce challenge is a top priority – building more facilities will not provide more care if we are unable to staff the ones we have.
  •  Shorter hospital stays and emphasis on homecare have led to a greater need for family care; yet, family caregivers do not receive the necessary support. The issue is not that the ideas and proposals are lacking, we just need the political will to get the policy passed.