This is an excellent article from “SouthCoastToday.com” that covers what seniors today and in the future have to look forward to.
Our View: Caring for the aged is a problem that will grow
June 17, 2012 12:00 AM
First of two parts
There’s a whole community of elder care experts who believe America is heading for a train wreck in senior health care.
One of those experts is Len Fishman, CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, who served in the cabinet of New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman as commissioner of Health and Senior Services.
At a recent meeting with a group of journalists, Fishman presented two sets of facts that are on a collision course. First, the demographics:
Those 65 and over today represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population; that will grow to 20 percent in 20 years.
Every day, another 10,000 baby boomers turn 65.
Those 85 and older will nearly double in 20 years.
“These numbers are unprecedented in human history,” Fishman said. “We added 30 years to the human life span in the last century— more than in all of human history up until that time.”
This demographic will dominate all others for the next quarter century. “And it’s the ultimate gender issue because seniors are disproportionately women; their informal caregivers are disproportionately women, and their professional caregivers are disproportionately women.”
Fishman said the U.S. must adapt to this burgeoning demographic. “We act as if people still live only to 60 or 70 years old,” he said. “The world can’t recognize the amount of change coming— everything from elevator doors that will have to close slower and ‘walk’ signs taking longer to allow older people to cross the street to offering entirely new ways of caring for the elderly.”
Now consider the U.S. health care system as it is set up today. According to the Institute ofMedicine:
There are not nearly enough medicalspecialists for the elderly;
The general workforce is not even minimally competent to care for the elderly;
Current models of care lead to fragmentation and poor care coordination.
This despite the fact that older patients use more services: 80 percent of those over 75 have a chronic disease, such as hypertension, heart disease or diabetes. The 13 percent of the American population over 65 represent 36 percent of physician office visits; 35 percent of hospital stays; 34 percent of prescriptions; and 38 percent of emergency medicalsystem responses. “These percentages will increase by 25 percent to 50 percent in the next quarter century,” Fishman said.
While those numbers are increasing, the number ofspecialists serving older people are decreasing. There are only 7,100 geriatricians in the U.S. and the number is declining. There are fewer than 300 new certifications in geriatric medicine each year.
Meanwhile, among graduating residents as a whole: Only 20 percent reported receiving some geriatric education, but 39 percent say they are unprepared to address patient fears in connection with palliative care; 41 percent of family medicine residents and 43 percent of internal medicine residents say they are unprepared to counsel patients about palliative care.
“It’s like graduating from high school without taking math,” Fishman said.
Less than 1 percent of registered nurses specialize in geriatrics;
Less than 4 percent ofsocial workers specialize in geriatrics;
Only 29 percent of master ofsocial work programs offer a focus on aging. In the 1980s, almost half of MSW programs offered specialization in aging.
Part Two will be published Tuesday I hope this has given you a little extra incentive to stay healthy!