There are 11 million Americans receiving long term services and support and half of them are over the age of 65. As millions of baby boomers turn 65, the demand for healthcare services is expected to double. For the first time ever, the population of the “super old,” those 85 and older, is increasing as well. As we age in increasing numbers and pressure increases on the existing health care system, is it possible to guarantee that aging loved ones receive quality care? Yes it is, but it takes planning and knowledge.
National Healthcare Quality Week is the perfect time to highlight what you can do to ensure quality care for an aging loved one.
1. Make sure that health care documents are in order. Health care proxy, power of attorney, living will and advanced directives should all be completed and filed with a doctor, attorney, trusted family member and in a safe deposit box. These help to guarantee quality care at end of life, which can be complicated and filled with angst if the patient’s wishes are not clearly documented and enforceable.
2: The older we get the more apt we are to have multiple chronic diseases. Staying ahead of these diseases and contraindications in treatment and medications will go a long way toward ensuring the highest quality of care is received. Tracking medications and medication adherence is one of the most important factors in an aging person’s well-being. Family members can do this, physician offices can help, and the pharmacist is a most important advisor.
3: Pay attention to keeping the elder at home for as long as possible; invest in home renovations so the senior can “age in place.” Safety tools can be installed easily in an elderly person’s home, such as grab bars in the bathroom to help prevent slipping. Non-slip rugs should replace throw rugs removed. Lighting should be as bright as safely possible and light switches should be in easy reach of the bed. Security systems and lights can be controlled by computer or smartphone, simplifying a senior’s life.
4. Think ahead and plan for in-home care. This has several benefits: the elderly person can age in place in their own home, key family members can get to know the caregivers, and the caregivers get to know the elderly person well. There is no substitute for high quality, daily, in person care that can detect subtle changes in the elderly person’s health. There are many options available when seeking this type of in-home care, including looking for physician practices that offer in-home skilled nursing care.
The phenomenon of aging in America has just begun. It will be the largest population of elders that this country has ever seen. Healthcare institutions may or may not be ready, but caregivers can be. Planning and seeking in-home care will ensure that the elderly person’s loved ones have control over the quality of care and are advocating in their best interests.