The Social Impact of Long Term Care Insurance

In 1975, if an elderly woman fell and broke her hip, she would probably have died from complications soon afterwards.  Today, however, thanks to advancements in medical technology, that woman would most likely live.  On one hand, this is great.  On the other hand, however, the elderly woman who survived the broken hip in today’s world would also most likely require Long Term Care.

Indeed, through advanced technology and even through simple screening to detect diseases such as colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis, modern medicine is making it possible for people to live longer.  Unfortunately, however, modern medicine does not necessarily restore people’s health.  In fact, with our increased life span comes the growing need for Long Term Care.

When a person needs Long Term Care, it is often provided by family and friends who, more than likely, determine whether or not that person can remain at home.  Following are some statistics regarding people with Long Term Care needs:

• 65% of older people with Long Term Care needs must rely solely on family and friends to provide care, while only 35% of older people with Long Term Care needs are able to supplement family care with help from paid home health care providers.

• 50% of the elderly who have Long Term Care needs, but who have no family support to help care for them, are in nursing homes, while only 7% who have a family caregiver are in institutional settings, such as a nursing home.  More long term care statistics.

Long Term Care is a social issue, and it affects everyone in our society, whether it is children facing the psychological toll of watching a parent die over a long period of time or taxpayers facing the financial toll of paying for Medicaid nursing homes.

Here are some concerns to consider regarding the social issues of Long Term Care:

The costs of Long Term Care are high.

No advanced planning can enable a person to become a burden on their families as well as society.

There are levels of quality regarding Long Term Care.

We find ourselves facing a complex problem with Long Term Care.  The graying of America and the Baby Boomer generation, combined with Americans’ increased longevity, make Long Term Care a challenging social issue for all.  We are faced with finding a solution to the growing needs of an increasingly elderly population in America.  More and more the question is asked, “What can be done about it?”

Adding to the complexity of the Long Term Care issue is the fact that the people who need care are not a homogeneous group.  In fact, they cover all ranges of ethnic, economic, and educational backgrounds.  Furthermore, individuals’ ages, current health, and family support systems affect their perception of what Long Term Care is and what type of care is needed.  The point is, there is no one single answer that meets the wide range of needs of these many different people.

The greatest challenge for our health care system is maintaining services for the uninsured and for patients covered by public programs (Medicaid).  One solution is making hospital stays shorter and sending patients home for services provided there.

Of course, the greatest challenge for public programs (Medicaid) is dealing with fiscal pressures as more and more people rely on the government for care.

In summary:

• Because people are living longer, they are requiring additional years of care.

• Hospital stays are shorter because more services are available at home.

• Modern technology enables people to survive more accidents, but it does not always enable full recovery, thus creating a new group of Long Term Care patients.  See the Christopher Reeve Foundation here.

Even though medical advancements have increased life expectancy, they have not delayed the onset of illness.  More people are living long enough to develop age related conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, and they are living longer with existing disabilities such as diabetes and other chronic conditions.  Modern medicine continues to improve through innovation, but there is a cost to that progress.  The irony is that as medical advancements help people live longer, the likelihood increases that these people will need Long Term Care.

The question remains. Unless one plans, how will they pay for it?

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