Elderly care is a reality for most people at some time in their lives, whether as a caregiver or as an elder who needs help. The value of elderly care can be measured in costs, services, and improved quality of life. Elderly care has become a complex set of alternatives.
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In the beginning of U.S. history, the elderly were mostly taken care of by their children or extended families. Eventually, families began to scatter more, and the elderly were left on their own, living in homes for the aged run by counties. Elderly care began to be a private business in the 1930s, which led to nursing homes. Medical care was a new feature of elderly care when Medicare came about in the 1960s, and the trend exploded after that. Current trends are towards community-based care.
Elderly care takes place in a variety of settings. Some adult children or grand children take care of the elderly in their families. Some elderly people go to live in an assisted care centre when they need constant help with daily chores and grooming, but are in reasonably good health. Other older people end up in nursing homes because of serious medical conditions. A newer option is for the elder to live in her own home, but receive in-home help for housework, finances, and personal care.
The benefits of elderly care depend on the type of care given. Any care that helps a senior stay in her home allows that person to feel independent. Nursing homes, on the other hand, should offer medical care without the elder having to be in a hospital. Assisted living helps people maintain some privacy while getting help they need. There are many advantages for society in providing care for the elderly. The government wins when elders are taken care of economically at home. Society benefits from the contributions of older Americans who are able because of the elderly care provided. Families benefit from the relationship with an older person.
The value of the services to the elderly have been rated in a number of ways. Generally, those who do basic and personal care of the elderly make low wages, at or barely above the minimum wage. Another way to value these services is called “opportunity cost.” Opportunity cost refers to the money or benefits a worker loses out on while engaged in elderly care. Forbes Magazine cites studies done by MetLife which estimated that businesses lost productivity in the range of £7 billion to £18 billion per year as of 2010 due to workers taking time off for care giving.
The future of long-term elderly care is an important issue in America. Medicare predicts that there will be 12 million elders in America who need long-term care by 2020. The Department of Health and Human Services expects that of those who live to be 65, 40 per cent will go on to live in a nursing home. Ten per cent of the people who go into a nursing home by then will stay at least five years. A study from the Labor Center of Berkeley, “Institutional and Community-Based Long-Term Care: A Comparative Estimate of Public Costs,” shows that home and community-based elderly care can be a cost-effective alternative as well.
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