Eldercare in the US: professionals replace relatives
Posted on : Mon, 03 Apr 2006 12:28:00 GMT | Author : Martin Booth
A recent survey revealed that 3 out of five Americans, between the age of 25 and 35, did not have a clear idea of what they would do after retirement. An even larger portion couldn't imagine themselves as old people needing the assistance of state-run programs like Medicaid and Medicare. The few who did, knew virtually nothing about eldercare.
People largely do not know how programs such Medicaid and Medicare run. In some states these programs involve corporate partnership which further reduces the consumer's burden of healthcare costs. Awareness about these aspects would help people not only to plan for a well-looked after old age but also to have a more realistic idea of the programs.
A large portion of one's old-age healthcare needs is usually taken care of by the person's own family or friends. A previous survey had revealed that 70 to 80 percent of the needs were met by relatives or people very close to the patient. But the average American lifestyle is changing all that. Less time is being spent on old and ailing people. Bedside care and other assistance from relatives and friends are fast becoming things of the past. Consequently, the health of the old person deteriorates faster that it did before, which, in turn, increases the medical costs.
Caring relatives are now replaced by professionals like nurses and other non-medical professionals specializing in eldercare. A nursing home would set you back by $200 to $250 a day. An adult family home would cost anything from $100 to $180. If living in your own home, you would need a companion to assist you in shopping and cooking; these chore workers charge between $60 and $80 for four hours.
The cost of these services can rapidly deplete one's life savings if one does not prepare for them, especially because they are needed on a long term basis. That brings us to the question - how much can Medicaid and Medicare help?
Medicare terms clearly specify that it does not provide for long-term care of the elderly. However it does take care of medical treatment. Example: an osteo-arthritic patient undergoing treatment for a bone injury will have his doctor's bills, hospital stay and medicine cost covered by Medicare but only for a limited period. Recuperating cost, i.e. hiring one of the professionals mentioned earlier, will be borne by the patient. People complain that Medicare ignores the fact that most of the elderly do not heal quickly and require extended care.
A large number of the elderly population expects something like Medicaid which makes long-term care services available for no cost. However, Medicaid limits its benefits to the very poor. Those who cannot be described as 'very poor' but still deserve such long-term care, can take hope from the Medicaid Bill passed last week by the House. The Bill aimed to achieve savings of $100 million-plus for the program by reducing error and fraud rates. Steps mentioned in the Bill include finding alternatives to long-term health care to be able to help an even larger number of elderly people. The Bill also hopes to increase private sector involvement in Medicaid.