America is aging, and fast. In fact, the number of Americans aged 60 and older is expected to double in the next 40 years, reaching a total of 80 million by the year 2040.
Declining birth rates, demographic shifts, and healthcare advancements are all contributing factors to this fast-rising rate. This is leading many to question whether the healthcare industry is ready to accommodate an aging population. In this article, we’ll delve into the current state of senior healthcare, as well as how families can prepare in advance for their loved ones’ golden years.
The State of Healthcare
In our feature on ‘Delivering Healthcare in America’, we highlighted how the healthcare industry is one of the biggest employment sectors, amassing over $1 trillion a year. However, it’s also one of the sectors that was hardest hit by the pandemic. Covid affected senior living and post-acute care providers, extracting a heavy toll on employees, residents, and operators alike. One in five skilled nursing facilities have reported severe worker shortages since the onset of the outbreak. But because of the growing senior population, institutions must strive to bolster their hiring and operational efforts.
Older Americans are also found to be sicker than their peers around the world. UFHealth discusses a survey that revealed how 36% of Americans above 65 reported having three or more chronic conditions. In comparison, only 13% of seniors in New Zealand reported as many illnesses. Nearly one in four older Americans also reported that they hadn’t visited a doctor when sick, skipped a recommended test, did not follow a prescription, or skipped doses— mostly due to the costs. Moreover, Black and Hispanic populations were reported to struggle more with dealing with health-related costs than their white counterparts during the pandemic.
Medicare and Health Insurance
To many older people in the country, Medicare is a critical lifeline. The original Medicare option covers hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B). Older Americans can also opt for the Medicare Advantage (Part C), which bundles parts A, B, and a separate drug plan (Part D). Health insurance is particularly crucial for seniors, as nearly 25% of Americans end up spending $2,000 a year on out-of-pocket medical expenses.
How Healthcare is Changing
The need for at-home health options became even more apparent after the pandemic struck, especially for older adults who are more susceptible to contracting diseases. Fast Company.com notes that Covid gave rise to telemedicine, which, while convenient, is still only part of the push for greater elder accessibility. Some of these accessibility changes could include web accessibility which entails readable fonts or text-to-speech features.
In terms of home accessibility, like non-slip floors and hazard-free environments, we’ve also seen a number of safety alert devices. SymptomFind.com notes that these gadgets can connect wearers to emergency services; by pressing a button on the device, older adults can make a life-saving call instantly. These systems even come with mobile apps or online portals for on-the-go caregiver monitoring. Finally, other public features like wheelchair ramps are becoming more common as well.
Lifestyle Changes for Older Adults
Of course, prioritizing your health and wellness as you get older is one of the best preventative measures. You can do so by getting serious about exercising more and eating better, and kicking bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking. Knowing your family’s health history is also an excellent way to determine any screening tests you need and when you should start. Mammograms, hemoglobin testing, and colorectal screening are common ways to help you find early signs of disease.
Ultimately, planning ahead is always a good idea for you or for your loved ones who are approaching their golden years, especially during these unpredictable times. It’s also best to supplement your Medicare and health insurance plans with further preparation for a safer future.