It was 2011 when Baby Boomers, those born between 1946-1964, were beginning to turn 65 and many were forced to consider what the impact would be on society with so many people aging. Individuals, organizations and governments were considering what would be needed to meet the needs of the rapidly aging population.
Caregivers of seniors are also looking to the future to learn as much as they can about what to expect as their senior loved ones age and how to prepare for a successful aging journey together.
65+ In the United States, Population Reports became available in June 2014, with three previous additions published beginning in 1993 by the US Census Bureau, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging.
The current report uses 2010 census data as well as other resources to detail a wide range of items that are specific to the aging population and can help guide states, governments and organizations in the creation and offering of services for those in need, as well as allowing caregivers to be aware and put plans in place to meet the challenges of aging.
Highlights of the Report
The report does detail a very broad range of issues with regards to the aging population, including population demographics, medical and financial challenges, chronic disease and death rates, life expectancy, functional status and its impact on longevity, long term care placement, medical insurance, retirement planning, and statistics on poverty, veterans, voting, volunteerism and the aging labor force.
Here are some pertinent highlights for caregivers.
- In 2010 there were 40.3 million people over 65 in the US, twelve times more than in 1900
- In 2030 all Baby Boomers will exceed age 65
- In 2050 all Baby Boomers will exceed age 86
- Once all baby boomers are over 65, there will be fewer than three people of working age (20-64) to support every older person
- In 2010 Alzheimer’s was the 5th leading cause of death among older people, increasing at a time when other causes of death from disease were declining
- In 2010 38% of those over 65 had one or more disabilities, including difficult with walking, climbing stairs and doing errands alone
- The number of elders living in skilled nursing facilities has declined while the number in assisted living has grown
- Medicaid has increased their payments for care from facilities to home based and community sources
- Home ownership rates remained stable for people 65+
- There was a change in marital trends such as a rise in divorce with an increase in those 65+ living alone
- In 2010 there was a 31% increase in the 65+ population using the Internet
- This age group is expected to provide over $83 billion in unpaid volunteerism
- Eleven states had more than 1 million peopled age 65+
- Not only are the Baby Boomers aging, due to the decrease in mortality rates resulting from improved health, those over 85 are also seeing a large increase in numbers; this phenomenon is called ‘population aging’
- In 2010 centenarians, people 100 and greater, was over 53,400
- While life expectancy has increased, the cause of death in aging adults has shifted from infectious disease to chronic disease especially heart disease and cancer
Impact for Family Caregivers
The overwhelming statistics of our population aging will, without question, impact family caregivers’ ability to meet the needs of these seniors. It is estimated that the aging population will have a medical, economic and social impact that is far reaching.
How can caregivers make plans for meeting the challenges that their senior loved ones will ultimately develop?
Caregivers will likely be responsible to help fill the gaps in their seniors’ ability to meet increasing healthcare and medical expenses on a fixed income as well as other needs.
The number of caregivers who are in the sandwich generation – caring not only for aging family members but also children, whether young or adult children – is growing as well.
At the same time family caregivers are providing hands-on care with activities of daily living, such as dressing, grooming, toileting and eating, they also have to be concerned about providing prevention and management interventions for chronic diseases. Because chronic disease is now the leading cause of death in our seniors, how they pursue lifestyle activities will impact their longevity. Family caregivers are the ones who will be in control of these lifestyle changes for their senior’s health.
Caregivers will also need to help their seniors improve their health risk by finding ways to improve the following: controllable, preventable factors of chronic disease-smoking, alcohol abuse, overweight/underweight, lack of physical activity, and poor diet, especially inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables.
Family Caregivers Improving Seniors’ Quality of Life
Caregivers will also feel the strong need to improve the quality of life for their senior loved ones. One way to do that is help seniors be pain free. Arthritis is a progressive disease that affects an estimated 50% of those over 65 causing chronic pain. Unfortunately, the pain limits seniors’ independence. Getting control of arthritis pain and reducing your senior loved one’s physical limitations can improve their quality of life.
Overcoming sensory impairments can also improve your senior loved one’s quality of life and will be another area of responsibility for caregivers to senior loved ones. Diagnosing and treating hearing and vision impairments can help your senior maintain independence but also reduce the potential for isolation and depression.
A major duty and role impacting seniors’ lives for many caregivers will be handling your senior loved ones’ cognitive decline. Because Alzheimer’s disease is growing by leaps and bounds in the aging population, it will not be uncommon for family caregivers to be called upon to provide care for a senior with dementia.
Helping Seniors Deal with Disability
Functional decline and disability also impacts the quality of life and independence of seniors. Declines in mobility will increase the likelihood for falls for your senior loved one and that means that precautions will need to be put in place by you the family caregiver.
Falls can make a big difference in the safety and ability to age in place for your senior loved one. Falls are the greatest cause of disability for seniors, which can lead to nursing home placement and one third of seniors will fall each year.
The effort to prevent disabling falls may mean safety precautions will need to be put in place, improved health and physical fitness with balance training will be required, or monitoring for their safety throughout the day. Interventions are possible but they will fall (no pun intended) to the caregiver to be initiated.
Bridging Healthcare Cost Gap
When medical care is needed, most seniors are covered by Medicare but, even with that, out of pocket expenses are estimated to be $6,200 in 2010. Many family caregivers will be asked to help with these costs or pay for them in total as seniors financial assets are exhausted as they age.
The amount of savings has begun to dwindle with the longer life of our seniors. Their money may not have lasted as long as their needs are present. Financial planning and retirement planning is an area where caregivers can encourage their senior loved ones to be proactive before it is too late.
Finding strategies to set aside money for the future health needs will help reduce some of the financial concerns of family caregivers.
After all is said and done, who will meet the needs of you as caregiver and support your journey? Most likely that responsibility will fall on you. You will also be the one to deal with your own personal limitations and find ways to keep yourself healthy so that you can continue to be a caregiver.
There is help to support you if you can reach out for it and ask for it when needed. Your task will be lightened when you understand what the future holds for you and your senior loved one and make plans to face it head on.