Your family expected this time would come. Your dad or mom would need your help — serious help. According to the Institute on Aging (ioaging.org), in 1985, older adults accounted for 11 percent of the U.S. population. By 2010, they were 13 percent. More than 40 million Americans are now age 65+. By 2030,as the last Baby Boomers turn 65,older adults are expected to reach 20 percent of the population. After that, the proportion is expected to level off, but the absolute number of individuals age 65+ will keep growing.
By 2050, the 85+ age group will reach 19 million, or 24 percent of older adults and five percent of the total population. Some researchers say the 85+ group will grow even faster than this, because death rates at older ages will decline more rapidly than the U.S. Census Bureau predicts.
– Institute on Aging (ioaging.org)
Let’s look back at our aging population over the age of 70:
- In 1900, only 100,000 Americans lived to be 85+.
- By 2010, that number had grown to 5.5 million. This is the fastest growing age group of elders.
- By 2050, the 85+ age group will reach 19 million, or 24 percent of older adults and five percent of the total population. Some researchers say the 85+ group will grow even faster than this, because death rates at older ages will decline more rapidly than the U.S. Census Bureau predicts.
- Older women are twice as likely as older men to live alone (37 percent and 19 percent, respectively). In 2010, 72 percent of older men lived with a spouse, only 42 percent of older women did.
- Living arrangements differ by race and ethnicity. Older non-Hispanic White women and Black women are more likely than women of other races to live alone (39 percent each, compared with about 21 percent of older Asian women and 23 percent of older Hispanic women).
- The likelihood of living alone increases with age. Among women age 75+, almost half (47 percent) lived alone in 2010.
Looking at the numbers makes it perfectly clear that many of us will be dealing with senior care solutions and options for our parents in the future. As with most things, researching diligently is key to being able to handle these types of situations as effectively as possible. While care options are one major aspect of senior care situations, being acutely aware of risk factors is another. For example, did you know that loneliness can be a contributing factor when it comes to cognitive decline and risk of dementia? Neuroscientist and psychologist Dr. John Cacioppo, at the University of Chicago, has been studying social isolation for over 30 years. One highly concerning finding is that feelings of loneliness are linked to poor cognitive performance and quicker cognitive decline.
“We evolved to be a social species,” says Dr. Cacioppo, “it’s hard-wired into our brains, and when we don’t meet that need, it can have physical and neurological effects.”
Loneliness is simply one factor and manifests in different ways. Social isolation also makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse. In fact, multiple studies present connections between social isolation and higher rates of elder abuse, reports the National Center on Elder Abuse. That is why it is so critical that a family member, caregiver or advocate actively monitor and work with a senior loved one often, to help ensure their safety.
We are often asked if physical (geographic) isolation often leads to social isolation, loneliness and depression. The bottom line answer is YES! Keeping your senior loved ones active and mobile with activity programs and transportation services tend to be key in creating valuable relationships and frequent activity — all en route to reducing isolation and loneliness.
Considering Home Care?
Companion services, meal preparation, light housekeeping and help with daily activities including transfers, hygiene, bathing, dressing and medication-adherence are some of the home care services available to your senior loved ones. When hiring in-home care assistance, specifically from a distance, we always suggest that family members or advocates perform a due diligence on potential companies that may be hired for senior homecare services. Also, request written responses from your potential care manager or senior care management firm. Ask about caregiver screening, background checks and exactly how the process works in terms of monitoring, daily or weekly reports and all of your questions in terms of accountability. Also, as needed, make sure the firm you consider hiring is available 24/7 via multiple methods such as phone, email, text as that way you always know you can get a hold of someone regarding your loved one.
In terms of payment for private duty senior in-home care services, you will typically need to pay for those services out of your pocket unless related to a health issue where Medicare may provide some terms of limited coverage — but, often these firms may not accept Medicare or other insurances, so always best to ask about the financial options from the start.
Approach the hiring of caregivers and care managers as part of building your “care team”. You are basically building a network family of homecare and health care providers along with other related, local services. This process can be complicated, especially from a long distance from your loved one’s place of residence. David Giacobbo, President of One You Love Home Care, says, “Building your care team will always function optimally if there are key people involved that manage from the top down and always put your loved one’s care and well being first, above all else. There should be nothing taboo or off limits when it comes to discussing the care of a loved one.” As he sees it, the specific team assigned to care for your loved one, based on each personal situation, will ideally blend in with your family and quickly become your trusted team to care for your mom, dad, or other senior loved one, whether your family member lives next door or thousands of miles away.