Elder Care in the Future

What do you think the future will be like for the elderly? Are you worried about becoming disabled or finding yourself with a terminal condition? Do you feel that this is the wrong time to be part of the aging population or having a relative that is aging and will soon be in need of ongoing care?

I have been reading about nursing homes and how many people are growing more and more unsatisfied with nursing homes. This dissatisfaction includes issues such as lack of privacy, absence of cleanliness, poor food quality and quantity, and nursing shortages resulting in long waits for nursing help. Patients have complained about being left on the toilet for unreasonable amounts of time waiting for someone to assist them or being left in a soiled bed for extended periods of time.

At one time hospice was touted as the best thing to come to patient care in a long time. Hospice providers promise to be available 24/7 to help with many issues especially pain control. However, many people have reported that when they called hospice needing help with pain management or giving medications they were told there was no one available to make a house call at that time. Not having appropriate nursing care when a patient is in extreme pain or suffocating due to breathing problems can leave a vulnerable patient terrified in their final hours.

Hospice care was initially provided by religious groups. However, for profit agencies have increasingly taken over this market. These for profit agencies now account for 75% for the hospice agencies in this country. One downfall of these for profit agencies as that they may have the tendency to take on more patients than they can comfortable staff.

I do not think that it is time to declare that the “sky is falling” for elder care. There are certainly issues of poor care being given in some situations. I also think there is a place in all of this for a nurse care coordinator and overseer of quality of care. Another belief I have is the belief in innovation. Just as hospice agencies were developed to meet a need is there another innovation that is just around the corner? Is there a gap that robotics can help to fill? How might tele-health be able to assist with patient assessments and teaching?

In the past when there has been a void or a vacuum innovative people have often stepped in to fill the void. I am optimistic that this will happen in elder care. I think it is too early to panic, but I do think that comprehensive questions need to be asked when deciding on elder care for loved ones at this time.