October 29, 2014

Half of All Seniors Receive -- or Need -- Assistance

About half of all seniors have care needs, according to a recent article in Medical News Today. That analysis was published in the September 2014 issue of the "Milbank Quarterly."

Here's how the research team framed the context of their study:
The cost of late-life dependency is projected to grow rapidly as the number of older adults in the United States increases in the coming decades. To provide a context for framing relevant policy discussions, we investigated activity limitations and assistance, care resources, and unmet need for a national sample of older adults. 
Using Medicare enrollment data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study -- a national sample of 8,246 older adults -- researchers from the University of Michigan and the Urban Institute determined that nearly 50 percent older Americans – 18 million people – have trouble, or receive assistance, with daily activities.

I’m already part of that half receiving help. A neighbor has been driving me to the grocery store – and on other errands -- for the past few months. With the progress of age, my Parkinson’s disease, and my increasing forgetfulness (more on that soon), I’ll need more and more assistance. 

As it is, I feel fortunate that – at 85, with PD and prostate cancer – I’m still as independent as I am.

Here’s how Vicki Freeman – UM researcher and, with the Urban Institute's Brenda Spillman, co-author of the report – broke down the numbers: "Although 51 percent reported having no difficulty in the previous month, 29 percent reported receiving help with taking care of themselves or their households or getting around. And another 20 percent said they had difficulty carrying out these activities on their own.”

The article in Medical News Today outlines other findings:

  • Among the 49 percent of seniors receiving help, one in four lived in either a supportive care setting (15 percent) or a nursing home (10 percent).
  • Severe disability is more common among lower-income seniors, a disproportionate share of whom received assistance with at least three self-care or mobility activities in settings other than nursing homes.
  • Nearly all older adults had at least one potential informal care network member - family or household member, or close friend. The average network size was four people.
  • Older adults who lived at home reported receiving an average of 164 hours of care a month from informal caregivers - more than five hours a day. Older adults living in supportive care settings reported nearly 50 hours of informal care per month. (That number is lower because so many of this group’s needs are “automatically” taken care of.)
  • About 70 percent of those getting help received assistance from family, friends, and other unpaid caregivers, while about 30 percent received paid care.
  • There were considerable unmet needs, especially among seniors receiving paid assistance. According to co-author Spillman, "Among the 18 million who had difficulty or received help, 30 percent had an adverse consequence in the last month related to unmet need. Among community residents with a paid caregiver, the figure was nearly 60 percent."

The study’s authors recommend policy changes to improve long-term care services to reduce unmet needs and benefit older adults and their caregivers.

No comments: