Caring for the Elderly

October 13, 2006 • Volume 16, Issue 36
Who will pay for care of aging baby boomers?
By Marcia Clemmitt

Introduction

New Yorker Pat Somerville cares for her 80-year-old mother, Lena, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Over the past 20 years, elder care gradually has shifted from nursing homes to home-based care and assisted-living centers.  (United Hospital Fund, New York)
New Yorker Pat Somerville cares for her 80-year-old mother, Lena, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Over the past 20 years, elder care gradually has shifted from nursing homes to home-based care and assisted-living centers. (United Hospital Fund, New York)

Nearly 70 percent of those turning 65 this year will need long-term care (LTC) in their lifetimes; 20 percent will need it for five years or longer. But — unlike most other industrialized nations — the United States has no public or private insurance infrastructure to pay for LTC. Those needing years of care will have to impoverish themselves before Medicaid will pay for it. But state officials say Medicaid — intended as a health-care safety net for poor children — could be bankrupted by rising LTC costs as the baby-boom generation ages, and the number of people over age 85 soars from around 5 million to 21 million by 2050. Meanwhile, understaffing, low pay and poor working conditions at nursing homes put residents at risk of life-threatening malnutrition and bed sores. As an alternative, states and nonprofits are offering more home- and community-delivered care, but LTC experts say the alternatives may not be any safer.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Older Americans and Senior Citizens
Sep. 30, 2011  Prolonging Life
Mar. 15, 2011  The Graying Planet
Oct. 13, 2006  Caring for the Elderly
Feb. 20, 1998  Caring For the Elderly
Aug. 01, 1997  Age Discrimination
Dec. 06, 1991  Retiree Health Benefits
Aug. 19, 1988  The Elderly in an Aging America
Nov. 21, 1986  Home Health Care
Aug. 06, 1982  Housing Options for the Elderly
Nov. 10, 1971  Plight of the Aged
Nov. 06, 1963  Nursing Homes and Medical Care
May 20, 1959  Housing for the Elderly
Sep. 04, 1957  Health of the Aged
Aug. 01, 1949  Older People
Mar. 29, 1938  The Job Problem for Older Workers
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Elderly Health Issues
Nursing Homes and Long Term Care Facilities