Long Term Care Has Room To Improve
Thanks to cutting edge modern medical technology, people are living longer than ever before. With so many gains in longevity, we also have a growing elderly population. Now, more than ever, there is a need to invest in quality long term geriatric care.
First off, it’s important to consider when exactly someone might require long term care services. Those with serious, chronic health conditions, disabilities that make mobility challenging, or aging related dementia are often most in need of assisted living programs. Sometimes these conditions can be triggered suddenly in the aftermath of a heart attack or stroke, but more often than not they are slow-onset, genetically determined, and a consequence of aging and frailty. The largest demographics of people in need of long term care are women, since they typically live longer, single people without someone else living with them, and those with health conditions exacerbated by poor diet or lack of exercise.
Traditionally, younger generations have often cared for the elderly and infirm in the family. Still today, a majority of long term care is given by unpaid family members, whether due to the inaccessibility or the expenses associated with professional caregivers. However, with rising inflation rates and lower wage growth in the United States than in previous generations--coupled with the exponential increase in elderly people--many people understandably find it difficult to balance a career, a satisfying home life, and the time to care for their elderly family members.
For perspective, an average nursing home stay can cost nearly $84,000 a year, whereas assisted living care costs around $42,000 annually. Even with insurance and Medicaid in place, patients are responsible for upwards of half the total cost. For the majority of people, this is 88 percent or more of an entire household’s yearly income, and is just not an affordable option.
Beyond the cost of long term care services, there are several internal issues with the infrastructure as well. The field is notorious for having a high employee turnover rate, which makes retention difficult and low staffing a major issue. There is ample evidence that facilities with fewer staff often aggregate in poorer communities and communities of color, and that these people are tragically underserved as a result. There is also the issue of lacking leadership and interpersonal communication within nursing and long term care homes, which can then lead to issues with patient abuse and neglect.
In general, long term care services are essential to the health and well-being of the growing elderly population in the United States. So much more can be done to alleviate the financial burden on the patient’s family, as well as in providing a safe, open, and well-served space for geriatric patients. With ample attention on long term care as an indispensable public service, changes can be made and elderly people can be guaranteed a long, fulfilling, and healthy life.