Demand for Residential Care Alternatives
The current level of interest in residential care alternatives grows out of several factors. These include the philosophical beliefs regarding community alternatives to institutional care discussed above as well as the social and economic factors that contribute to the demand for such alternatives. These can be divided into two categories of demand factors.
The first are those factors that emerge from population characteristics and include changing demographic trends and the prevalence of frailty or need for service within the population. The dramatic growth of the elderly population in general is a major factor in the demand for care and services of many types. Moreover, the increasing number of frail and/or disabled older adults further intensifies the need for health and welfare services among those in need of long-term care.
The second category of factors includes those political and economic forces that generate demand for particular health and service delivery systems. The rapidly changing nature of the health care system and particularly the rising cost of health services are perhaps the most critical of these forces in determining the demand for long-term care options at this time. An understanding of these demand factors and their interrelated nature is important in order to analyze more fully the ways in which they have shaped policy responses in the long-term care continuum and especially in the emerging residential care industry.
America's older population is larger than it has ever been and, if current trends persist, the number of older persons will continue to grow into the next century.