Elders Impacting Health Care


USA Today published a story titled, “Nation’s sickest seniors reshape health care”. The subtitle is, “10,000 SENIORS COST MEDICARE $1 BILLION”. That comes out to $100,000 for each of those seniors. That is an annual figure.

As USA Today indicates,

The health of seniors varies widely across the USA, but in many areas, it’s getting worse. Since 2008, the number of counties where three-quarters of senior Medicare beneficiaries have multiple chronic conditions has gone up 20%. In Texas, for example, 24 counties see at least 85% of all Medicare’s medical spending go toward a small number of the sickest seniors.

The size of the problem is well shown by the map, below:

Medicare Spending on Medically Complex Seniors

Medicare Spending on Medically Complex Seniors

According to Johns Hopkins University, the average elderly patient sees 13 doctors per year and fills about 50 prescriptions. That is a number that should scare every one of us, both personally and financially.

Of the five most common ailments of medically complex seniors, only heart disease has decreased between 2007 and 2013:

USA Today Chronic Conditions

USA Today Chronic Conditions

One of the clearest implications of this situation is the increased need of family caregivers for professional help. We see this every day at Support For Home In-Home Care. One of the families interviewed for the USA Today story is a good example:

After years of handling all Jack’s medical care, Debby says she caved and hired an in-home nursing aide this winter. She knows the time is coming when she’ll need overnight help for Jack as well — if he falls, there’s no way she can lift the former college football player by herself.

She’s hated turning over daily life in her home to strangers, but knows she can’t handle everything herself.

Sadly, that is simply a fact of life in our aging American population and culture. Families are, for all intents and purposes, smaller and much more dispersed than in the past. Family caregivers are stretched thin, emotionally and physically. They simply have to have help.

I will follow up with part 2 of this story, so stay tuned. If you have thoughts to share, please, please do so.

Best wishes. Bert

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