One of the biggest fears people have about entering their senior years is that they’ll be placed and forgotten in a nursing home. Many hold an image of those nursing homes as places of substandard care that warehouse people with failing bodies and fading minds. Seniors want to maintain a high quality of life until the day they die. They want and deserve to live fully. They want independence. They want to maintain their dignity. They want to be respected.
Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always live up to the aspirations we have as we age. Health and mental vulnerabilities can negatively impact us often without warning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), aging increases the risks for chronic diseases like dementia, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cancer, all of which weaken a person’s immune system.
Today, 50% of elderly people are battling at least two chronic diseases, and four in five older adults will have at least one chronic illness.
While only 3.6% of people over 65 years old are in nursing homes, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) says about 60% of people in the U.S. will sooner or later need assistance with activities of daily living: getting dressed, driving to appointments, or making meals, for example.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how truly vulnerable people can be later in life. The virus has killed a far higher percentage of Americans aged 65 and older than it has those under 40, according to the CDC’s stats as of June 29, 2022.
COVID-19 deaths unfortunately struck with particular vengeance in long-term-care facilities before transmission of the virus was fully understood and lock-downs ensued. As of February 2022, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that “COVID-19 deaths in [long-term-care facilities] make up at least 23% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.”
Also in February 2022, The White House issued a statement spotlighting the need for improvement of “infection prevention and control deficiency in nursing homes,” saying that “…failure to comply with Federal guidelines at nursing homes is widespread.”
HMS’ Commitment to Helping Senior Citizens
That’s why we do what we do at HMS. We’re in business to make sure America’s most vulnerable — many of whom are elderly — get the respectful, dignified, high-quality care they deserve in healthcare and long-term-care facilities. We work with and support federal and state agencies in conducting on-site inspections and in helping to train agency personnel about best practices.
As a company, HMS invests in communities where we work all around the United States, with a special focus on helping support and protect vulnerable populations in our headquarters community of Fairmont, West Virginia, as well as aiding organizations around our office in Columbia, Maryland.
Ensuring Quality Care Choices for Seniors
America’s seniors have a lot of choices for getting the care they need as they age. Many can receive support right in their own homes from visiting nurses and health aides, and use medical transport to get to doctor visits. That approach is called “aging in place.”
For those seniors whose needs can no longer live at home, four types of long-term care facility options are available:
- Board and Care Homes: These are small private facilities with around 20 or fewer residents, and they can have private or shared rooms. The residents receive meals, personal care and access to the staff. However, on-site nursing and medical care are not typically provided.
- Assisted Living: These facilities can have anywhere from 25 to 120 or more residents. The residents live in their own apartment-type rooms but share common areas with other residents. The services include meals, housekeeping, laundry, help with medications, help with personal care, security, supervision and activities.
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs): These are communities that offer different levels of care depending on each resident’s needs. Many have independent housing, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities all on one campus.
- Nursing Homes: For those with more acute medical and health care needs, these facilities typically provide 24-hour nursing care and supervised assistance with everyday activities, as well as meals and other physical services.
Building a Better Future for Seniors
There was a time in America’s history when none of those options existed, when care for seniors was haphazard and unregulated. The good news today: 99% of people aged 65 and above have health insurance, a benefit that didn’t even exist many decades ago.
There’s also strength in numbers. Demographic changes are drawing greater attention to the needs of seniors. In short, America is an aging nation.
As the U.S. Census Bureau reported in June 2022, “The last two decades have seen the country grow continuously older. Since 2000, the national median age — the point at which one-half the population is older and one-half younger — has increased by 3.4 years, with the largest single-year gain of 0.3 years coming in 2021, bringing it to 38.8 years. …Median age for most states also increased from 2020 to 2021, indicating their populations are getting older overall.”
Yes, aging presents personal and societal challenges. But with continued vigilance, technological advances, and a commitment to caring for vulnerable populations, the prospects for seniors to continue embracing life to the fullest are continually increasing.