The Present and Future of Senior Care

 

The senior care market is a growing industry, but there are challenges on the horizon. In this article we will look at the obstacles facing today’s caregivers and their economic impacts.

The foremost problem is that the ratio of caregivers to those needing care is falling while the population is aging. The majority (83%) of caregivers are family members, friends, and neighbors – all unpaid. Already there are not enough caregivers to properly care for our nation’s seniors. In 2010, there were more than 7 potential caregivers for every person 80 or older who require the most care. In 2030, the ratio is expected to decline to 4 to 1.

“More than two-thirds of Americans believe they will be able to rely on their families to meet their needs when they need long term care” said Lynn Feinberg, AARP® senior policy analyst. “But this confidence is likely to deflate when it collides with the dramatically shrinking availability of family caregivers in the future”

The number of seniors is increasing. There are 65 million family caregivers caring for a 50+ senior, but there are currently approximately 109 million people over 50 in the US. By 2020, there will be another 10 million adults over 50. This means 17% of the entire population will be over 65.

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Impact on Caregivers

Caregiving becomes more difficult for family caregivers as their loved one ages. Most caregivers start by supporting their loved one with small tasks, but this often escalates to become a full-time job. The average family caregiver is not properly equipped to handle many of these tasks.

On average, family caregivers spend 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones, with 13 percent spending 40+ hours of care per week. This time is often in addition to full time work – 6 in 10 family caregivers are employed. These caregivers have reported having to work late or take leaves of absences, and many have been forced to leave work entirely. This is problematic because caring for the elderly is costly: 47% of working caregivers have reported they have used of all or most of their savings in caring for their loved ones.

Caregiving is difficult emotionally and physically. People who have been caregivers for a long time are often in poor health. They stop going to the doctor when they should, have poor eating habits, and they decrease their exercise activities. These habits have lasting impacts: their immune system’s defenses have been shown to be lowered for up to three years after they stop caregiving. This dramatically increases the risk of the caregiver developing a chronic illness themselves. They are at increased risk for depression, and the stress can take off as much as 10 years off of their lives according to Elissa S. Epel from the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF.

 

Physical Health Index By Age - Alert1

 

 

Emotional Health Index By Age - Alert1

Economic Impact

Because so many family caregivers work, their caregiving has an impact on their employers and the economy as a whole. Drops in caretaker’s productivity are estimated  to cause businesses in the US to lose as much as $34 billion each year. Employers also have to pay about $13.4 billion per year to cover caregivers as part of their health package. Other businesses lose their employees entirely to caregiving.

Leaving the workforce combined with using up family savings means female caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income. 

Profile of Caregivers 18 Plus - Alert1

Effect on the Senior Care Business

Family caregivers need help, and the senior care industry is increasing to fit the demand. By 2020 there will be a 70% increase in home health and personal care aides to 1.3 million people. The senior care industry as a whole is growing more that the US job market at large. Prospects look bright for senior care, but the industry has to overcome the challenges that arise with a growing industry.

Powerful new technologies are emerging every day that will help caretakers and home health aides provide the best possible care to seniors. Traditionally, this industry is slow to change. It takes time for these new devices to be accepted and implemented. Alert1 is experienced in successfully releasing new technologies for seniors, such as our fall detection and mobile medical alerts. Dating back to 1988, Alert1 has supported the senior care industry in adopting the latest new technology.

Comments

7:12 PM on October 27, 2014 Carly Jones
This was a fascinating read, thank you! Caregivers definitely need more support than they are currently getting.
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