Why Aging Should be a Top Issue …
Healthcare, not surprisingly, makes the top 8 issues that shape presidential campaigns. As the two parties debate their differing sides of healthcare reform, they do agree on one thing – the rapidly rising cost of healthcare. And yet, neither side has a real solution that addresses the reality of our situation – people are living longer and with more healthcare needs. In fact, no one is talking about aging at all.
Steve Moran references in his article, ‘Better for Senior Living: Hillary or Donald’ an email headline by Dr. Ken Dychtwald, founder of AgeWave, that said if you’re in the aging industry, we need to be saying to both presidential candidates: pay attention to the aging population – specifically in areas of healthcare, elderly poverty, ageism and purpose.
What issues should the candidates be talking about? Dr. Dychtwald suggests more age-related topics with real solutions: ‘What bold measures should we take to beat Alzheimer’s before it beats us?’ ‘How can we cause Americans to save enough to be able to afford their longer lives?’ or ‘As people age they struggle with mobility and transportation – and corresponding social isolation. How should that be remedied?’ These are great thought-provoking questions that start a dialogue about the issues we as a nation will face as people age.
We’d like to take ‘triple’ aim at these issues because we believe not only do politicians have an opportunity to create change but so do we on a local level to begin conversations that highlight newer, whole person models of care that incorporate Triple Aim dimensions (better care, better health and reduce costs).
- The 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study found that 60% of people who are living in the community with difficulty AND receiving paid home care still report an adverse consequence associated with unmet needs. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) suggests broadening preventive services and encourages collaborative work to identify seniors who might be at risk and connect them to evidence-based programs that can improve their experience and outcomes.
- A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after an initial incident, 1 in 5 people aged 65 and older were re-hospitalized within 30 days; 1 in 3 within 90 days. Today, readmission rates have improved – now just 15.2% of seniors are rehospitalized within 30 days, but more improvement is needed. Lifesprk has termed this the ‘Roller Coaster of Health Care Crisis’ which describes the constant in and out of the hospital and decline in health every time a crisis hits. What we’ve learned is that each time this happens seniors not only lose a bit more of their vitality and independence but a piece of their financial security.
- The CDC shared in their report ‘Keeping the Aging Population Healthy’ that more than 2/3rds of current healthcare costs are for treating chronic illness among older Americans. Many believe the roller coaster we mentioned above is an inevitable part of aging but it’s more a sign of a reactive health system that focuses on treating each medical episode after they occur rather than proactively looking at the big picture, long-term. Little is done to prevent the ongoing health issues, even if chronic, that lead to frequent hospitalizations. Stopping the roller coaster leads to better use of finances and quality of life for everyone as they age.
- Research in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 90% of the factors that shape poor health outcomes are due to reasons other than health, with the largest being behavioral patterns. And yet few healthcare options address the full scope of life challenges many seniors face beyond just physical health. When left unchecked, these challenges can lead to frequent ER visits and hospitalization, putting seniors onto the roller coaster of readmissions costing our society in multiple ways.
- Medicare doesn’t cover everything, and yet many people believe it will. Paying for health care as we age is inevitable but being proactive can help safeguard not only personal wealth but the healthcare system as a whole. Medicare services focus on acute health needs to help people recuperate and are designed to be short term in nature. That leaves a lot of gaps in coverage. Alzheimer’s disease for example has a 10-year trajectory yet only the acute health issues are covered, not the day-to-day support that is often need. According to the National Stroke Association, of Minnesotans aged 65+, 7.2% have had a stroke – and while stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability, it’s also one of the most preventable. Medicare may cover acute exacerbations related to the stroke such as developing pneumonia but it typically does not cover the daily assistance with activities of living that stroke survivors need.
Surprisingly models that focus on achieving Triple Aim have never existed until now and yet they produce dramatic results that change the way people age in this country and for the healthcare system as a whole. Whether or not politicians see this as a hot topic, we know the pressure for change is happening already and it is starting to creep into all your roles. Proactive planning now will help us all prepare for the new aging frontier and the opportunities to spark lives.
We want to know: What issues related to aging are important to you? And do you feel they should be a priority in today’s political scene? Join the conversation…