The Years of Aging Dangerously – The Difficulties Of Caring For The Baby Boomers

2009-11-18 | |
Last updated: 2009-11-18

In little more than a year, the first of the Baby Boomers will be reaching the official age of retirement in some countries or will be close to the approximate retirement age of 65 in others. In the next 20 years until roughly 2030, the numbers of people over 65 will continue to increase and in the US, will reach a full 25% of the population. While much has been written about the strain that this large population of seniors will have on health care systems in many countries, what is also true is that it could be hard on the Baby Boomers themselves.

Though most of us are well aware that aging brings increasing risks of disease and a decreased ability to do the things we used to do, other external factors will also affect the quality of life of the “nouveau senior”.

As we age, so do our living parents and with life expectancy increasing, seniors may well find themselves caring for there own aging parents for quite a number of years. For those with the financial means to do so, the option exists to send their parents to residence homes and nursing homes. In cases where it is difficult to care for their parents, this will reduce the stress on their daily lives. However for those without the financial capacity, this stress of providing care can have a significant effect on their own lives.

As seniors continue to age, the relationship with their own children and those around them also becomes important to their quality of life. Based on statistics from 2000, as many as 1 in 7 American seniors are financially exploited annually. In many cases, the culprits are family members and children so sadly, in situations where relationships with the family are in question, seniors may have to take preventative action to protect their financial well being. These sorts of measures will only serve to make life very difficult for seniors as family members who believe they are entitled to some money seek to collect “what they deserve.”

In other situations, rather than being exploited, seniors may risk being abandoned by their family members. Whether it be in nursing homes, residence homes or even in their own homes, some seniors may find themselves very much alone without visits or even simple assistance of their own children. In the case of abandonment, statistics on the magnitude of the problem are very hard to find, but this, in of itself, indicates an area in need of urgent study.

In the worst situations, rather than being neglected, seniors may face verbal and physical abuse, a sort of attention nobody deserves. Different estimates based on a variety of research efforts put the numbers of abused and neglected seniors at 1 in 17 in the US. Neglect can mean denying seniors access to medicines, basic comforts or things they enjoy.

Abuse can range from verbal assaults to physical violence. In most cases, such abuse is the result of family members and not the staff of homes in the homes providing the care, although this too is a problem. An abusive spouse can unfortunately remain abusive to a partner “till death do they part”.

For those seniors who become sick, nursing homes will sometimes become necessary. In many cases, because people enter these homes following hospitalization, they have not taken the initiative to determine the best quality home for their budget in advance. This is important because nursing homes vary considerably in the quality of life and quality of care they offer. In some states in the US, almost 33% of nursing homes ranked only a 1 on a 5 star scale according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services monthly ranking system.

Some of the fundamental problems that some nursing homes face are that of being under staffed and under funded by insurers or governments depending on country. In a New York Times article, overmedication was found to too common in treating those with even mild dementia, making them worse than they would be if they didn’t take the medications.

The medications are often prescribed to avoid the need for staff to manage patients through interaction. This is unfortunate given that researchers have found that for 30% to 60% of patients with dementia, the human interaction can actually improve symptoms. It is also unfortunate given that some of these drugs increase further health risks such as pneumonia by 60%.

Other problems may also exist in nursing homes relating to patient health and quality of life. According to another article in the New York Times, 94% of nursing homes in 2007 were cited for health and safety concerns with a full 17% having problems bad enough to cause people immediate harm. This says nothing of the harm that some residents can inflict upon another. Further to this, other statistics such as those from the UK show that 1 in 4 nursing home residents is infected with a form of super bug. This clearly indicates some lack of control of health conditions in these group homes.

The worst part about the nursing home issues is that given an increase in the number of Baby Boomer seniors entering such homes, and the under funding that may come in caring for such a large percentage of the population, the situation could well become worse without action.

While this article is a lot of doom and gloom for those soon to face retirement and the sunset years, it should serve as a wakeup call given that many of our parents may already be facing the problems mentioned here. It is very important to plan your retirement years and not just getting there with your retirement savings. Be aware of your risks and plan so that you have the best chance to enjoy these years.

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