Increasing Financial and Practical Support for an Aging Population
By 2030, it is estimated that in the US at least 20% of people will be over 65. Caring for this aging population will require additional funding and practical adaptations as demand for healthcare will also rise. As well as employing and retaining more health professionals specializing in geriatric care, finding ways to reduce the costs of care is vital in order to improve health outcomes for older people. Further practical support such as modifications in the home, the implementation of telehealth and the introduction of other assistive technology can also help to prepare families for living with seniors and enable older adults to remain independent in their own homes.
Adapting Private Homes for Aging in Place
Last year, President Biden announced a three year extension to the Medicaid program, Money Follows the Person (MFP). The funding provided by the program is designed to help seniors in nursing homes move back into their own homes or live with other family members. The majority of people over the age of 65 would prefer to remain in their own home as they get older, and MFP applied in 33 states has already helped over 100,000 older adults and people with disabilities move out of institutions and back into the community. In addition to funding and extra care, home modifications can ease this transition. Elderly patients are frequently admitted to hospital after falling at home but simple physical aids such as grab rails can help to significantly reduce the risk of trips and falls. When aids are combined with assistive technology to monitor health and provide medical alerts, more seniors are able to maintain their independence and age comfortably in place.
Providing More Specialist Geriartric Care
While supporting aging in place in private homes is vital, in order to make healthy aging a more important element of public health, their is an urgent need to invest in more healthcare professionals specializing in elderly. Older people are more likely to experience ongoing problems with their health such as chronic pain or heart disease, and are at greater risk of suffering a stroke or developing dementia. Understanding the complex needs of elderly patients is important, and yet, currently, only 1% of physicians are certified geriatricians and many nurses lack basic training in the care of older people. Increasing pay for specialist carers and providing additional financial incentives for nursing schools could help to attract and retain more healthcare workers specializing in elder care. At the same time, adapting the provision of care to include more social work and incorporating family carers into professional teams could help to improve the provision of geriartric care to meet a growing need.
Dealing with Obstacles to Adequate Senior Care
Unfortunately, even when adequate geriartric services are available, many older patients face financial barriers to accessing health care. Older Americans are charged more for their health care than older adults in most other high-income countries. According to last year’s International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, older patients in the US were more likely to put off visiting the doctor when ill due to the cost of treatment, and the percentage of Americans over 65 who skipped medication or neglected to pick up a prescription because of the price was double that in other developed countries. Federal health insurance programs can assist with healthcare but many older adults find them confusing, and healthcare providers are not always aware of the cover available to their patients. Raising awareness of the different types of cover can help seniors to find a plan best suited to their medical and income requirements.
Lowering Healthcare Costs While Improving Later-Life Care
While insurance programs can help to cover the costs of care, other schemes can reduce the need for some healthcare services in the first place. The social isolation commonly experienced by older people can exacerbate poor health, and lead to a decline in both physical and mental well being. A trial program run by an organization specializing in elder care arranged visits by older adults to their peers recovering at home after hospitalization. By offering companionship and the opportunity to talk about their needs, the program reduced the rates of readmission to hospital by 25%, improving health outcomes and significantly reducing health care costs for both individual patients and the government.
As the number of over 65s grows rapidly, the provision of adequate care for seniors, both at home and within public health organizations, becomes a priority. In addition to programs to help older people in age in place, attracting and retaining more care workers will help to support the country’s aging population. At the same time, removing the barrier of rising healthcare costs for older patients can ensure they continue to access the care they require.