The number of Americans who will be becoming seniors in upcoming years is growing at a fierce rate. About 117 million seniors will need some sort of caregiving in 2020, and the projection is that in 2030, 1 out of every 5 Americans will be over the age of 65, while by 2035, 11.5 million Americans will be over the age of 85. Unfortunately, many of these people are not set up for long term care.
The great discrepancy
While these numbers are on the rise, what’s not moving along at the same pace is the amount of people who have a support system in place. No one, or at least very few people, want to admit that they will ever not be independent. But when the time comes, there’s nothing in place to support them, and they have to rely on subpar solutions in order just to live.
In addition to this alarming trend, the healthcare system is not set up to deal with the crisis. As it is there is a shortage of healthcare workers, and with more people needing the services, the deficit will simply widen. Social programs for the elderly are also underfunded, and with more services required but money and assistance drying up from all sides, the crisis is sure to explode to unimaginable proportions.
Is there anything to do?
Yes! There are always ways to deal with the problem, especially if we can see them coming in advance. Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, argues that by better training home health care workers and offering them better wages, the healthcare system will ultimately save money by keeping at home. Currently, home health workers get paid less than $10 an hour and don’t have benefits. As the nation requires better home health care, we’ll need to make vast efforts to respect these workers and this movement.
While many children provide caregiving services for their parents, it’s certainly not the environment where the younger generation respects of even reveres the older generation, like in China, where there are laws that govern how to show respect for parents and elders. Changing the character of the American approach to elders would help shift the onus of caregiving.
There are many grassroots efforts to help seniors age in place with a competitive, communal caregiving model. These include “carepods,” where a caregiver provides care and lives with a senior in an arrangement where she will eventually own the home, and village movements, where people form an aging community that takes care of each other’s needs. Many experts believe that these types of organizations will naturally crop up and take care of the problem without governmental interventions.
Doing what you can for long term care, now
Most people don’t need to rely on innovative ideas to get the care they need, although a revolution in long term care is certainly welcome. In some countries, getting a home set up for long term care is standard, and everyone approaching that age who wants to age in place needs to consider that.
The Alameda Center for Rehabilitation in Essex County, New Jersey, offers top level long term care for seniors in New Jersey.