In the next 50 years, the growth in the number of the older population in the United States will greatly impact this country’s healthcare system in terms of demand, and supply of healthcare workers. It is possible that the supply of health workers will decrease as they age. Besides, a large number of nurses and doctors reduce their working hours as others retire. Concurrently, it is a fact the aged adults consume the large share of the American healthcare services. For this reason, health services demand will continue growing. The aging population will also affect the nature of services and skills that healthcare workforce should be able to provide as well as the settings where the care is provided. This essay discusses the impact of the health care system on the aging Americans and the effects the old people present to the healthcare.
The generation of individuals born between 1946 and 1964, also known as the baby boomers, is having a great influence on the healthcare system. Notably, this generation was growing as the XX century continued. In the year 2000, the number of Americans aged 65 and older was 35 million. Surprisingly, this number is expected to rise by over 19 million and reach 54 million by 2020. Therefore, the number of baby boomers will increase from 12.5% to 20% in the US population (Cavanaugh, 2010). In the US, medical students are considered as the future of the American healthcare system. Therefore, as they take up their careers to be medical assistants, nurses, and doctors, they need to be aware of the manner in which the aging population in the U.S will change the medical industry, as well as how to provide the best care, especially to the elderly patients.
To date, medical students are being prepared to deal with diverse illnesses amongst a population different than before. The large numbers of individuals who will be seeking this medical attention in future are the elderly. Medical students should be knowledgeable about various conditions that threaten older adults today. However, the call for more medical assistants and doctors to focus their care only on seniors grows day by day. By 2030, 33,000 geriatricians will be required. Currently, the number of the certified practitioners is 8,800 in the US. The approximate number of the American baby boomers is 75 million (Cavanaugh, 2010). For the next 20 years, approximately 3 million baby boomers will have retired. Such facts will significantly change public policy, health care and society as the needs of Americans evolve, and the elderly leave the healthcare workforce at alarming pace. Hospitals should focus on how to provide care to the aging population while the aging healthcare workforce will also impact on the services rendered.
Baby boomers require specialized care. Evidently, most of them are likely to have diabetes, obesity, higher cholesterol and higher rates of hypertension. Approximately, 84% of individuals aged 65 and above suffer from at least one chronic condition unlike those aged from 20 to 44 (Center on an Aging Society, 2002). For this reason, this will mean that the healthcare cost for the baby boomers will be high. This will also increase the need for more healthcare professionals. For the medical students, it is important to learn the preventative measures for the elderly. Most of the older Americans are prone to chronic illnesses. This puts more strain on the Medicare programs and the health care providers as well.
Hospitals are likely to experience financial burden as the baby boomers age. Moreover, they will also incur numerous chronic conditions. Individuals suffering from chronic illness are likely to end up in medical facilities even when catching a cold or getting a flu. It is expensive for hospitals to treat patients with chronic symptoms since such people are vulnerable to other diseases. Without significant changes in the healthcare system, issues related to costs could worsen.
Older adults call for more and varied services. It is evident that they require different care needs compared to the younger age groups. Therefore, this will affect the demand for the future of the healthcare. Older adults will require the services of healthcare professionals due to illnesses and injuries. They will also have a greater physical vulnerability. This means they are likely to break their bones from falls. They are prone to getting pneumonia as a result of influenza (Center on an Aging Society, 2002). Moreover, the elderly have many limitations when it comes to performing duties compared to younger individuals. This is because they have greater rates of cognitive and physical disability. Nearly, 35% of adults aged 65 and above have limited activities they can perform. Additionally, the elderly consume more prescriptions on medicines than the younger generations.
Another way in which the older adults are affected by health care systems is through consuming more ambulatory care, nursing home services, home health care and hospital services than the younger generations. Those who are aged 65 and above require on average 706 ambulatory care visits for every 1,000 people unlike those aged from 18 to 44 (Center on an Aging Society, 2002). Accessing care, especially for the elderly, is a great issue. The transportation to hospitals is a big issue for frail persons since their driving skills are wanting. Over 90% of the individuals in their sixties are licensed drivers. Only 50% of people in their early eighties are licensed. For this reason, accessing healthcare services for the elderly is a big issue as well.
Most of the older adults live in rural areas. There, public transportation is minimal. The supply of healthcare providers can also be minimal. Older adults in nursing homes are only allowed to see healthcare providers who visit them to offer services. Some of the providers are not in a position to provide care to the seniors who are institutionalized due to lack of the necessary equipment in the facility. Older adults are entitled to one major payer who pays the services they use structured by Medicare reimbursement. Even though some individuals have supplementary coverage, the reimbursement policies affect the demand for services and supply of healthcare workers (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2000).
There are numerous reasons why older adults with chronic conditions remain active and independent. Contrary to this, there are others who decline into dependence and frailty. First, some chronic illnesses can be more severe or disabling than other ones, for instance, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Second, some chronic conditions like hypertension can be controlled with medications (Ortman, Velkoff, & Hogan, 2014). Thirdly, there are other aged adults with the resources to self-manage their chronic illnesses. In this case, the symptoms can be controlled. Older individuals need different resources to assist them to manage chronic conditions. Medicaid and Medicare offer medical treatment for chronic diseases. Contrary to this, the care resources that are needed in managing chronic illnesses are not readily available.
So as to balance the medications, behavioral changes, and symptom relief strategies, the elderly adults need knowledge on what to do to achieve success and family to help. For the older adults who do not have relatives close to them, they might require an additional financial resource to acquire assistance (Wiener & Tilly, 2002). Provision of education and emotional support to the elderly and their families necessitates fundamental changes within the American value system. Currently, this system promotes the treatment of chronic conditions. However, it ignores the emotional needs of family caregivers and patients who cope with multiple chronic illnesses.
There are few primary health care providers who are trained to provide focused geriatric care. The shortage of nurses in America is expected to accelerate in the next years. The lack of nurses to care for the older adults will soon be a critical health care issue. The significance shortage of healthcare providers who are trained to assist the needs of the seniors might worsen the situation since the demand seems to increase over the years to come. If implemented soon, changes in policy might help in overcoming this challenge (Hackler, 1994).
Geriatrics is the medical practice of taking care of the seniors. Geriatricians ensure that the elderly patients are getting the best care possible. Doctors and medical assistants who care for the seniors work in interdisciplinary teams. Social workers, nurses, family members and occupational therapists, all collaborate to provide comprehensive care for patients with multiple needs. There is the necessity for more training. Most of the specialists in health care field will require better training, especially, in geriatric issues. Currently, the standards for geriatric education differ. Most health occupations and professions do not offer formal credentials that are focused on the older adults’ needs. The number of individuals with such credentials is minimal.
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The seniors are faced with financially driven healthcare choices. The families of the elderly face financial issues in efforts to acquire treatment and resources to support their health. For this reason, they might be drained by paying multiple treatments for the chronic conditions. For the elderly, medications costs are a critical financial problem that takes much time to be solved. The medications for curbing chronic conditions are costly (Hackler, 1994). Older adults tend to visit physicians more often that the younger generations. Most of the visits require the individual to pay for Medicare beneficiaries. The seniors do not often use mental health services. This could be due to lack of education amongst healthcare providers with the geriatric mental health assessment.
Regardless of the alarming issues surrounding the aging generation, there are many reasons to be optimistic. The development of new care models as well as other advances in technology can save the healthcare systems billions, and the baby boomers may be able to live longer. The major driver when it comes to innovation in improving care for the older patients is the affordable care unit. The Medicare programs are testing and promoting models that pay for all kinds of care being delivered. If it appears to be effective, they should make caring for the aged more efficient and relieve stress on the systems.
In conclusion, older adults usually seek for better lives during their later years. To them, the quality of life does not only mean physical health and absence of various diseases. It involves a general sense of satisfaction, meaningful activity, happiness and the ability to express values, beliefs, cultures and relationship. There are new requirements to the health care systems that will necessitate implementing changes in how services are being provided to the elderly. These demands will also include the need for more health care workers. New models of care should to be modified and developed to serve the big population of the aged adults. Additionally, new opportunities for healthcare personnel will be developed which are currently not presented well. Health care providers will also have to find new ways of providing services. This can include providing services in the patients’ homes, in assisted living facilities, in nursing homes, and through the Internet. The way healthcare is provided could change substantially as well. Assisted living and home health services are expected to engage more health profession for the next ten years. Besides, employment in nursing homes will also rise appropriately.