Tending to illness and recuperation is nothing new. But recent demographic and economic changes make home health care a topical issue right now.
For one thing, our population is aging. The oldest of the baby boomers have hit their 50s, an age when health consciousness often takes a turn for the serious. And even as the boomers are facing their own maladies, they're also often caring for parents in their 70s and 80s whose medical challenges are even more intense.
The result is a boom in sales of home health equipment and supplies. For instance, San Francisco market research firm Frost & Sullivan reports that the overall market for home diagnostics and monitoring products will reach $1.44 billion this year--and it's expected to top $2 billion by the year 2000. Within this category are such items as diabetic blood-glucose monitoring products, blood-pressure monitoring devices, respiratory therapy products, and pregnancy and ovulation test kits. Also hot: bath safety products, mobility aids and incontinence supplies.
What's at work here is more than a surge in the number of people with health problems. It's also a change in attitude. "Baby boomers clearly are spoiled by the retail experiences they're used to," says Joyce Greenberg, CEO and founder of Take Good Care, a Springfield, New Jersey-based chain of health-care product superstores. "In the past, a [medical equipment and supply] business operated almost exclusively on referrals from health-care professionals." Today, there's a growing desire on the part of consumers to seek out their own help.