As Boomers Age, Who Will Care for Seniors?

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Photo by Flickr user jonrawlinson

Guest article by Albert Lester (editor enhanced)

Americans keep living longer. According to the CIA World Factbook, 26% of Americans are older than 55. Just more than 40% fall in the 25-54 age range, double the rate for those under age 14, and dwarfing the number of 15-24 year olds. Moreover, our population growth is less than one percent. For baby boomers, some of whom have already entered retirement, this brings an interesting question: will there be enough entitlement funds to help support them in old age, and will there be enough caregivers in the smaller generation groups that follow them to meet the demand?

Senior boom looms as number of potential caregivers shrink

Caregiver Support RatioThere are about six million seniors in America today. AARP says there will be three times as many octogenarians in 2050 as there are today. The number of potential caregivers will shrink almost in reverse proportion by 2050. Today, there are just more than seven potential caregivers for each senior older than the age 80. By 2050, the number will drop to just three. Moreover, the dominant age group for caregivers, 45-64, will shrink steadily, as well.

You Take Care of Mom, But Who Will Take Care of You?”

As shown in the chart at right, AARP predicts the Caregiver Ratio will plummet and become critical when boomers hit age 80. More than two-thirds of Americans think they’ll be able to rely on their families to meet their needs for long term care, but they may be horribly mistaken. The caregiver support ratio was 7.2 in 2010 when Boomers were in their peak caregiving years, but it is projected to drop to 2.9 percent by 2050 when boomers reach their eighties.

If the laws of supply and demand remain more or less constant, more people will enter the caregiving business. The profession itself is growing “faster than average,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, which also notes a modest increase in average hourly wages since 2010. But will enough people want to enter a profession that is physically and emotionally demanding and has a relatively high incidence of work-related injuries?

Insurance options for caregiver services

Medicare pays for home health services documented and prescribed by a physician, up to 35 hours per week. In addition, state Medicaid programs help pay for home care for qualifying seniors. Many states also participate in home and community-based services waiver programs that extend care beyond standard Medicaid services.

The private insurance market is another place to consider for long-term care options. Life insurance policies can be used to cover costs that arise from loss of income, for example. You can also add riders to life insurance policies to cover other expensive life events. A State Farm life insurance policy holder can purchase a Flexible Benefit Rider that can be used to help care for a chronically ill policyholder at his (or a designee’s) discretion. Visit LongTermCare.gov to learn more about when you can use life insurance to help defray medical costs related to age-related disability. Many insurance companies also sell long term care insurance. Forbes offers an overview of who should consider this route and when.

What is being done to support the caregiving profession? The National Association for Home and Hospice Care offers caregiver education, consumer resources, information on legislation and regulations impacting caregivers and patients, and first-person accounts from caregivers about their work.

About the Author

Albert Lester teaches economics and business at his local high school. He blogs about business, finance, teaching and the economy in his spare time.

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Editor’s Comments

GLASS HALF FULL: A present and worsening shortage of primary care physicians and an even greater shortage of specialists, coupled with aging boomers and health care reform aimed at increasing access to medical care,will make face to face care more difficult. This shortage is fueling the telehealth industry, whereby a physician will literally see you over the Internet. mHealth initiatives will actually increase contact of the provider and patient via text messaging, email, and communication of sensor-derived physiologic data. Health care robots and other assistive technology will also help to provide elder care, but can they replace the human touch? Find out by browsing our various articles on robots.

GLASS HALF EMPTY: While it’s true that “Americans keep living longer,” our average lifespan lags behind that of other nations and varies considerably by income.

 

Most Efficient Health Care: Countries
Among advanced economies, the U.S. spends the most on
health care on a relative cost basis with the worst outcome.
 
Rank
Country Efficiency score Life expectancy Health-care cost as % of GDP per capita Health-care cost per capita
1 Hong Kong

92.6

83.4

3.8

$1,409

2 Singapore

81.9

81.9

4.4

2,286

3 Japan

74.1

82.6

8.5

3,958

4 Israel

68.7

81.8

7.8

2,426

5 Spain

68.3

82.3

10.4

3,027

6 Italy

66.1

82.1

10.4

3,436

7 Australia

66

81.8

8.9

5,939

8 South Korea

65.1

80.9

7.2

1,616

9 Switzerland

63.1

82.7

11.5

9,121

10 Sweden

62.6

81.8

9.6

5,331

11 Libya

56.8

75

3.8

398

12 United Arab E…

56.6

76.7

4.1

1,640

13 Chile

56.2

79

7

1,075

14 United Kingdom

55.7

80.8

9.4

3,609

15 Mexico

54.9

76.9

6.4

620

16 Austria

54.4

81

11.2

5,280

17 Canada

53.4

80.9

10.8

5,630

18 Malaysia

52.8

74.3

3.3

346

19 France

52.3

81.7

12.5

4,952

20 Ecuador

51.7

75.6

6.1

332

21 Poland

50.6

76.7

7.1

899

22 Thailand

50.2

74.1

3.7

202

23 Finland

49.5

80.5

9.4

4,325

24 Czech Republic

48.9

77.9

8.1

1,507

25 Netherlands

48.5

81.2

13

5,995

26 Venezuela

48.3

74.3

4.3

555

27 Portugal

47.2

80.7

11.4

2,311

28 Cuba

46.8

79.1

11.3

606

29 Saudi Arabia

46

74.1

3.6

758

30 Germany

45.5

80.7

11.7

4,875

30 Greece

45.5

80.7

13

2,864

32 Argentina

45.1

75.8

7.70%

$892

33 Romania

44.9

74.5

6.3

500

34 Belgium

44.5

80.5

11.4

4,962

35 Peru

43.2

74

4.4

289

36 Slovakia

41.1

76

9.1

1,534

37 China

38.3

73.5

4.6

278

38 Denmark

38.1

79.8

11.8

6,648

38 Hungary

38.1

74.9

8.6

1,085

40 Algeria

37.2

73.1

4.2

225

41 Bulgaria

37

74.2

7.5

522

42 Colombia

36.2

73.6

5.6

432

43 Dominican Rep…

35.3

73.4

5.2

296

44 Turkey

33.4

73.9

6.5

696

45 Iran

31.5

73

5.1

346

46 United States
30.8
78.6
17.2
8,608
47 Serbia

27.2

74.6

12

622

48 Brazil

17.4

73.4

9.9

1,121

SOURCE: http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/most-efficient-health-care-countries 

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