Barriers for Senior Care

Care for the elderly is both underappreciated and underfunded. In the United States the segment of the population aged 65 and over is expected to double in size within the next 25 years; by 2030, 1 in 5 people will be over 65. With a growing number of 65 and over citizens, ever expanding care and services are needed. No senior citizen should face care that is anything less than excellent; such a standard is something we as a society should strive towards.

However, there exist many barriers to wide-spread, high-quality care. Extended care for the elderly is expensive; the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the average cost of a nursing home in 2010 was $6,235 a month, representing a total cost of $74,820 annually. This figure is almost double the average yearly earnings of most Americans, meaning that without appropriate assistance only a tiny fraction of the population could ever hope to afford high quality services.

Oftentimes family caregivers have to pick up the slack, however, this too poses economic harms. The AARP estimates that family caregivers in the United States provide $470 billion in unpaid services and care. The average family caregiver spends 18 hours a week taking care of their loved one; with such high time demands, it makes it nearly impossible to hold onto full time employment.

There exists no clear answer to this dilemma. What is clear is that many senior citizens prefer stay in their homes, as opposed to receiving full-time nursing home treatment, and by keeping citizens in their homes it takes the burden of cost off of government programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

Senior day care and community-based programs are promising alternatives for this population. These services can provide needed care for seniors while also allowing family caregivers to have additional time for work. With effective community management, unpaid costs for family caregivers can be decreased, and it can allow families to remain stable.

Community-level elder care has also been a space of recent innovation. One promising development is the creation of intergenerational care centers and programs. While few such programs exist, they are ever growing in number. Such programs can work efficiently to raise functioning for elder citizens and lower costs by embracing the senior day care model.