Healthcare For Elders: Issues And Decisions

By: Gordon Petten

There are many things to consider when caring for an elderly loved one. Now that people are living well and living longer, elder healthcare has become very important. This relatively new area of healthcare and provider services is often referred to as elder care. It encompasses a wide variety of issues which include: choosing an appropriate physician or physicians to care for an aging patient, setting up home care is possible, and making decisions about moving the patient from his or her home to a residential care setting. Persons age 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of America's population. Many in this population are living a healthy, active, independent life; however, as more and more people reach their 80s and 90s, the number of people who need assistance with daily living is increasing, as are the responsibilities of those who are providing the care. The statistics on elder healthcare may surprise you.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, the elder population, (those age 65 and older), numbered more than 35 million Americans in recent reports. Since people are living longer, these numbers are constantly increasing and not expected to dip any time soon.

Also reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, the number of elders increased 12 percent since 1990, , compared to a 13.3 percent increase of the population under 65 during the same time period. Today, persons who reach age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 17.9 years. This calculates out to 19.2 years more for women, and 16.3 more for men than what was estimated in the year 1900.

In 1900, the average life expectancy was 49.2 years, whereas today, it is 76.9. As you can see, this has dramatically increased. While this is greatly attributed to the advances in modern medicine, it is also in part because people are taking an active stance in their own lives and taking better care of themselves. Still, it is crucial to plan for the time when a great health insurance plan will mean good care and improved quality of life.

One of the biggest problems facing many seniors today is their inability to afford medication. Since many people over 65 take medication on a regular basis, most often more than one type simultaneously, it has become necessary in recent years to address this issue. Many healthcare plans won't cover various medications, while others cover only a small part. This often means choosing the medications, or in some cases medication, the individual can afford, and which one or ones he or she can do without. This can be met with negative results, since it is presumed the person wouldn't be taking the medication if it wasn't necessary. There are, however, companies who have begun addressing this problem by offering prescription plans and insurance targeted for the elderly.

While there are many important aspects of elder healthcare to consider, there are steps that are being taken to help make it easier and more affordable. Legislature is addressing some of these issues and trying to come up with solutions to suit a variety of needs. Perhaps one day, seniors can look forward to retirement without having to worry about how they'll pay for it.

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