Within the next 20 years, one out of five Americans (nearly 80 million individuals) will age more than 65 years. Challenges in geriatric care policies are particularly noteworthy as the joint center report predicted that the share of homes by individuals over 65 will increase from 29.9 million to 50 million by 2035. It is of particular concern as most American homes aren’t accessible for a geriatric population with limited mobility. And older Americans who live at homes require long-term care—which is unaffordable for them—end up living in isolation, with conditions worsening with each passing day.
Before addressing the challenges in geriatric care policies and proposing possible solutions, let us define complete senior care!
Defining Complete Senior Care
Different sources consider different ages under the term “elderly”. Typically, a person is referred to as a senior citizen when they’ve retired at the age of 60 or above. Medicare declares an individual a senior citizen at age 65, whereas the social security office considers retirement at 67. You can also start getting security benefits at the age of 62. Even though senior care takes various forms in the US, senior or assisted living—more informally known as “home”—remains the most typical form of care provided to senior citizens.
As the name suggests, these places are set up to help individuals who cannot afford or choose not to spend their lives in isolation. Senior living facilities are not restricted to seniors, but they also shelter people with certain disabilities. However, older people make up the majority of the assisted living population.
One such care option, Polaris Home Care is a senior care facility offering services in San Francisco Bay Area. It provides seniors with companionship, personal care, memory care, assistance in household tasks, and more. These care facilities help seniors in enormous ways, but with the surge in the number of aged people in America, challenges in care also increase enormously.
Following are the five biggest challenges and their possible solutions that can redefine geriatric care policies in the US.
Make Housing Accessible
An increasing elderly population will indicate more numbers of home units that will include individuals with disabilities. The joint center predicts that 17 million senior households by 2035 will at least have one person with a movement disability. Traditional restroom layouts, stairs, corridors, and narrow doors may pose difficulties as they require easy single-floor living. However, the expenses of better safety and accessibility can range from free-of-cost (removing rugs) to costly (a new addition to allow single-floor living).
Preparing your household before anyone has a mobility disability can help reduce the cost of such changes. For instance, while remodeling your bathroom, add reinforced walls to allow the later addition of some grab bars easier. Homeowners require financial assistance to modify their homes, but trends in wealth, wages, and debt indicate that older people may not have enough assets in the future. This is where government assistance and care policies come in. Through low to no-interest loans, Medicaid waivers, tax credits, or grants for the needed changes, geriatric care policies in the US can be fundamentally improved.
Offer Long-Term Care
Around 27 million senior Americans in 2035 will require help in their routine household tasks such as housework, shopping, and paying bills. Currently, most of these tasks are fulfilled by family members of the elders because of the expenses associated with care. The number of homes with few to no children and single-person homes will soon increase dramatically. For people, factoring in paying for care, long-term government support is also essential, be it implemented through affordable housing, medical treatment plans or rehabilitation post-op and injury.
Ensuring Affordable Housing
Affordability is a significant challenge when it comes to aging in place. According to the joint center, 8.5 million cost-burdened households will invest over 50% of their wages on housing. This household typically survives by cutting back expenses on necessities like food, transportation, or healthcare. Such compromises put older individuals’ health at potential risk and limit them from accessing services and engaging in the communities.
Ensuring that every older household connects with their neighbors and has access to services in their communities is as critical as preparing someone’s finances and home. Isolation is the major problem for those older individuals who age in low-density and rural areas. According to a new study, below half of older households located in locales of metro regions have a lesser number of housing units per acre.
Transportation such as care share services or paratransit and technology that allows social interaction and virtual medical appointments will be important. However, these individuals living in low-density locales and the governments and organizations that serve them should consider expanding programs to make access possible to various services and communities.
Strengthen Public Health Roles
Traditionally, older people have received benefits from progress in public health, such as smoking cessation and vaccination programs. However, public health has overlooked geriatric care services or programs completely. Recently, the initiative of developing an age-friendly public health system has been gaining momentum. Aging is a core public health responsibility, and it impacts the system’s capacities and skills to improve the overall health and wellbeing of aged people. Age-friendly systems at the state, national, and community levels create the conditions that elderly individuals should live in a safe, healthy and productive environment. This requires introducing programs and health policies ensuring older adults access to hygienic food, exercise, and social engagement.
The challenges in geriatric care policies are worth noticing to create solutions and better plans for access to proper geriatric care. An important step is to be aware of and address the physical and financial challenges that older households might face if they stay in their contemporary homes. It’s just as crucial to ensure that governments and organizations understand and plan to provide better housing care to the older residents of America.