Aging in America: Crisis and opportunity

old-couple-1316755-1279x849

Photo credit: Pierre Amerlynck/Freeimages

Next week, I’m headed to Chicago for the Aging in America conference.

I look forward to attending sessions and meeting other advocates who are addressing the needs of America’s rapidly aging population. My Respite Care Share concept will be presented as part of the poster sessions. I know I will come away with a lot of takeaways, which I will share here upon my return.

When I think about aging in America in the big picture sense, I see crisis and opportunity. There are multiple crisis points that must be addressed, but each of those crisis points is also an opportunity. And while grassroots efforts can’t solve all of the problems surrounding aging, they can make a real difference.

Some of the major aging issues I care about include:

  • Health care: The affordability and quality of health care for seniors must be addressed. There is much Medicare doesn’t cover, such as residential care for those with Alzheimer’s. The outrageous residential care expenses can quickly bankrupt a middle-class family. Many Medicaid programs are overwhelmed, and facilities accepting Medicaid often have long wait lists and sometimes are of substandard quality.
  • Aging in place: One way to avoid the high costs of residential care is to care for aging loved ones at home. However, that comes with its own costs, such as renovating a home to make is safer and more accessible for seniors, and adult children being forced to leave the workforce or reducing their work hours to take care of aging loved ones. This not only has an affect on the caregiver’s current income and health insurance benefits, but their family budget and retirement outlook as well. The mental and physical toll of caregiving that must be considered as well. Community programs can assist with some of these issues.
  • Professional caregiver shortage: As America’s population rapidly ages, the need for professional caregivers to fill in the gap that families cannot cover is also rapidly growing. Because these jobs pay so little, there is a shortage of quality people for these roles. While spending their days caring for others, many professional caregivers cannot afford health insurance for their own families. My mother’s personal caregiver ended up quitting the field because she couldn’t afford to put gas in her car. If we value caregivers more in the job market, we can fill the staffing shortage and reduce unemployment.
  • Alzheimer’s & other dementias research: I care about supporting the research into all major diseases that claim the lives of Americans. My mother lost her life to colon cancer. But my father’s battle with Alzheimer’s illustrated to me the cruel particulars of this condition, and how the entire family is mentally, emotionally and financially impacted. It’s important that we keep funding research efforts and participating whenever we can in trials and other studies that can help find effective treatment.
  • Family caregivers: Last, but certainly not least, I am a strong advocate for more support for family caregivers. Greater financial support is a must, but at the community level, encouraging caregivers to use respite and simply being a good listener for a caregiver who needs to vent are just as vitally important.

What aging issues are most important to you?

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Awareness & Activism

4 responses to “Aging in America: Crisis and opportunity

  1. Here’s a problem that troubles me, but I have no idea how to address it. My parents had long-term care insurance that they paid into for years and years. My sister and I finally got through the maze/morass of getting my father approved to receive benefits. We had to be diligent, vigilant, and pro-active, and I have wondered about the elderly people who don’t have family to advocate for them. LTC companies don’t care unless they are made to care. Any thoughts on this?

    • This is an important issue, thanks for sharing. I’ve heard of others running into issues with LTC insurance, either getting companies to cover expenses or finding out much is not covered. The industry needs better oversight and accountability, and consumers need to be better educated on how the policies work.

  2. How wonderful Joy! This is the first I am hearing about this conference as I was embroiled in my own little world for a few (wonderful) years with my mom. Will this information be disseminated so that others can benefit – or can you lead me to other such webcasts/webinars and advocates? I am not in a position to travel at present, but I envision a more localized type of group in the future. I’ll be researching more… I’d like to make a difference. Thanks for your good work and for following my blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s