Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Health Care and ElderCare

An article just released this month by Benefit News reports that one in four employees currently cares for an older or disabled adult. Of those employees, nearly half (44%) have missed work time to care for a loved one, finds a new national survey of working adults conducted by work-life benefits firm Workplace Options. And, according to the 2008 National Study of Employers released by the Families and Work Institute, 39% of employers today provide access to information about services for elderly family members. Additionally, WPO's poll indicates that 61% of the respondents would utilize a service that assisted with caregiving if it was provided by the employer free of charge.

The Annals of Emergency Medicine just released a study this month that was revised at the end of 2007 an objective to review the rates of emergency room visits by elderly patients. The greatest use noted was by older patients, and they have longer lengths of stay in the ED with a stronger likelihood of hospital admittance. Rates increased 34% over a ten year period that the study was done. Seniors over the age of 65 had a greater increase of ED visits than the rest of the American population. The conclusion is that emergency room crowding will be a trend to be considered as the overall US population ages with over 74 million Baby Boomers now beginning to enter the senior citizen demographic.

Additionally, the federal government lists a variety of resources for eldercare on the HHS website. Each town and city offers a range of supporting services available to older residents 60 years of age or over. Local Information and Assistance Programs and/or Area Agency on Aging can assist older persons and their families in locating the services they need. Some of the services available include:
--Adult Day Care: Adult Day Care Centers offer social, recreational and health-related services to individuals in a protective setting who cannot be left alone during the day because of health care and social need, confusion or disability.
--Caregiver Programs: The National Family Caregiver Support Program provides programs and services for caregivers of older adults and some limited services to grandparents raising grandchildren.
--Case Management: Case managers work with family members and older adults to assess, arrange and evaluate supportive efforts of seniors and their families to remain independent.
--Elder Abuse Prevention Programs: Allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of senior citizens are investigated by highly trained protective service specialists. Intervention is provided in instances of substantiated elder abuse, neglect or exploitation.
--Financial Assistance: There are benefit counseling programs that can be accessed through the (I&R/A) specialist at your local area agency on aging to assist older adults with financial assistance.
--Home Health Services: Home health care includes such care activities as changing wound dressings, checking vital signs, cleaning catheters and providing tube feedings.
--Home Repair: Programs that help older people keep the condition of their housing in good repair before problems become major. Volunteers might come to an individual's home and patch a leaky roof, for instance, repair faulty plumbing or insulate drafty walls.
--Home Modification: Programs that provide adaptations and/or renovations to the living environment intended to increase ease of use, safety, security and independence. There are some local, state, Federal and volunteer programs that provide special grants, loans and other assistance for home.
--Information and Referral/Assistance Information Services (I&R/A): Information Specialists are available to provide assistance and linkage to available services and resources.
--Legal Assistance: Legal advice and representation is available to persons aged 60 and over for certain types of legal matters including government program benefits, tenant rights, and consumer problems.
--Nutrition Services: Home Delivered Meals popularly known as "Meals on Wheels," are nutritious meals delivered to the homes of older persons who are homebound. Congregate Meals provide the opportunity for persons aged 60 and over to enjoy a meal and socialize with other seniors in the community.
--Personal Care: Services to assist individuals with functional impairments with bathing, dressing, shopping, walking, housekeeping, supervision, emotional security, eating and assistance with securing health care from appropriate sources.
--Respite Care: Respite is relief or rest, for a specified period of time, from the constant/continued supervision, companionship, therapeutic and/or personal care of a person with a functional impairment.
--Senior Housing Options: The decision to seek care outside an individual’s home is a difficult one. If you are considering such a move for yourself or a family member, please contact your local area agency on aging I&R/A specialist to determine the full range of support options available to you.
--Senior Center Programs: Senior Centers offer a variety of recreational and educational programs, seminars, events and activities for the active and less active older adult.
--Telephone Reassurance: Provides regular contact and safety check by trained volunteers to reassure and support senior citizens and disabled persons who are homebound.
--Transportation: Programs that provide door-to-door transportation for people who may be elderly or disabled, who do not have private transportation and who are unable to utilize public transportation to meet their needs.
--Volunteer Services: There are numerous volunteer programs and opportunities available for older adults such as daily telephone reassurance, friendly visiting and insurance counseling.

Eldercare is a health issue that has received ever increasing attention in the last 5-10 years as the American population is getting older. Information about this issue is available on a variety of websites including Aging Parents and Elder Caring for an aging parent, elderly spouse, domestic partner or close friend presents difficult challenges – especially when a crisis hits and you are suddenly faced with the responsibilities of elder care. Perhaps your aging mother has fallen, is hospitalized with a broken hip and needs to go to a rehab facility or nursing home to recover. Caregiving can also begin as a result of a series of unsettling mishaps and warning signs that indicate a need for long term elder care. Perhaps your elderly spouse has wandered off and gotten lost several times. Or a long-time friend has lost a lot of weight and rarely leaves home.
You may be the only person to step in and become the caregiver, or you may be the linchpin of a network of family members and friends willing to help care for your elderly senior. Whatever the situation, you are not sure of the next step, or even the first step.

There are many questions to consider that are mentioned on the site for Aging Parents. If their problems are not correctable, what elder care living arrangements are available for your loved one? What nursing care plans are most appropriate? If they are able to remain in their own home, what kind of elder care services do you arrange? Is assisted living preferred over a nursing home? What challenges does your loved one's condition pose? What is the best way to access community elder care resources? How will you manage it all – and still maintain a life of your own?

Wikipedia states that traditionally elder care has been the responsibility of family members and was provided within the extended family home. Eldercare is the fulfillment of the special needs and requirements that are unique to senior citizens. This broad term encompasses such services as assisted living, adult day care, long term care, nursing homes, hospice care, and in-home care. Increasingly in modern societies, elder care is now being provided by state or charitable institutions. The reasons for this change include decreasing family size, the greater life expectancy of elderly people, the geographical dispersion of families, and the tendency for women to be educated and work outside the home. Impaired mobility is a major health concern for older adults, affecting fifty percent of people over 85 and at least a quarter of those over 75. As adults lose the ability to walk, to climb stairs, and to rise from a chair, they become completely disabled. The problem cannot be ignored because people over 65 constitute the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

However eldercare is accomplished, the end result is often highly stressful and often expensive. There are many resources available for caregivers. As our population gets older, Americans must consider all available options to decrease health care costs associated with this issue and increase the ability for seniors to benefit from those resources.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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