By Paul Lorrah
Many older adults face similar barriers when it comes to navigating health care. It's estimated that by the year 2030, the amount of older American's will double and account for a significant amount of our population. As this population continues to grow, it's important that caregivers are aware of some common issues faced by older adults to ensure their loved ones receive the best care. Here are things to consider when planning for care.
According to the Alzheimer's Association's 2017 Facts and Figures, 37 percent of our population ages 85 and over will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's; 17 percent of those ages 65 to 74 and 1 in 10 people over age 65 will also receive this diagnosis. Alzheimer's disease is a health crisis that is not only affecting older American's emotionally but also causing a financial crisis. Associated costs are climbing into the billions for both patients and their caregivers. Although there's not a cure for the disease, preventive measures, such as regular physical activity and dieting, can be taken to reduce the chances of an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
[See: 9 Habits That May Reduce Your Risk for Developing Alzheimer's.]
Health care education is key when navigating the health care system for yourself or a loved one. Literature suggests that doctors, nurses and other health professionals are falling short when learning about the health care needs for older Americans. It's important that we inform elderly patients of all treatment options and remind them that there are clinicians who are dedicated to meeting their specific needs. Many of my patients first learn of specialties like geriatric medicine after a visit at our center. Navigating a health care system should not become a game of chess. Rather, it should allow individuals the opportunity to make educated and informed decisions about their health care.
Medicaid? Medicare? Home care? Nursing home? Assisted living? Understanding the ins and outs about topics related to finances cannot be covered easily, but planting a seed on the importance of reviewing where you or your loved one stands financially is. Along with education on how these resources differ, it's important that families address financial matters early instead of waiting until an emergency. A common myth heard by many patients and caregivers is that Medicare will cover "everything." Many people are unaware that Medicare does not pay for assisted living or many other long-term residential care settings.
Such conversations should be frequent when caring for an older adult, and they should happen before the age of 65.
Isolation is a growing concern not only for older Americans, but all Americans. To address this reality, adult day centers and Senior centers are available in neighborhoods across the county. Not only are social needs met at these centers, but they assist older adults with activities of daily living, such as cleaning, cooking and personal care. Yet, this seemingly forced socialization is a hard sell, especially for those older adults who aren't typically social butterflies. Similarly, assisted living residences are a great cure for isolation, allowing older adults to build a community of peers and form new bonds through regular planned activities.
As the population of older adults continues to increase, it's important that caregivers take the opportunity to educate themselves to make the best decisions to meet the needs of their loved ones. Take the initiative to address these matters in advance to help your loved one age independently.
Questions about how your aging parents will pay for the care they need? Contact us today for a FREE consultation.
Author Paul Lorrah is a Medicaid and Long Term Care Planning expert who has authored such books as "Planning and Paying for Long Term Care' and "How to Get Medicaid to Pay for Your Long Term Care Costs".