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Senior Health: Findings From the United Health Foundation

American senior citizens have serious concerns affecting their health, longevity, and quality of life. United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report for 2014 details these concerns to improve not only the health of our eldest citizens but also their enjoyment of life. With seniors representing a major part of the population – 1 in 8 Americans is over 65 and almost 80 million baby boomers are set to join them in the next 20 years or so – addressing these concerns has become more critical than ever.

Chronic health conditions are among the most troubling issues today’s senior citizens face. According to the report, the majority of seniors have at least one chronic health issue. The chronic conditions seniors suffer are wide and varied, but diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis are among the most common. Considering just one of these concerns, arthritis, is eye opening. More than half of senior citizens have arthritis.

Obesity

According to the report, approximately 30 percent of senior citizens are obese, which means their body mass indexes (BMIs) are 30 or above. This is of major concern because obesity is linked to a number of serious health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Poor nutrition and inactivity are two of the primary contributors to obesity in the United States, but there is some good news. The percentage of obese seniors has decreased to a little over 28 percent, falling from last year’s 30.3 percent.

Prevention

Preventable hospitalizations have continued to plague seniors. This year’s report lists preventable hospitalizations of senior citizens at a little over 64.9 percent. Though this number is higher than desired, it does represent an improvement. Last year, this number was 66.6 percent.

Many seniors also face nutritional challenges. Good nutrition is key in preventing acute and chronic conditions, supporting the immune system, preventing obesity, and ensuring that senior citizens have the energy they need for physical activity. Unfortunately, 14.3 percent of Americans who are at least 60 years of age suffer from food insecurity, which means they don’t have a consistent, reliable source of nutritionally sound food. This number represents an increase of .7 percent since last year.

Care Challenges

Shortages of care providers represent yet another challenge for our eldest citizens. In-home care workers help seniors remain in their homes longer, which fosters a sense of independence and can enhance quality of life. However, in some states, shortfalls in home health worker numbers send seniors who don’t quite require institutional-level care into nursing homes. Likewise, geriatrician shortfalls mean senior citizens have a harder time getting care from doctors who specialize in treating older citizens. The need for geriatricians has decreased 6.7 percent since last year, but the number still remains too high. As of this year’s report, the need for geriatricians sits at 58.9 percent.

Senior citizens also face concerns when it comes to nursing home care. Quality of nursing home care has increased by 4.8 percent, and 46.8 percent of nursing home beds are considered high quality. However, this means more than 50 percent of nursing home beds do not get a 4- or 5-star rating. The answer to this problem may be more community-based care, which is better for seniors overall, especially in states that offer home-delivered meal programs to ensure nutritional health. This is why in-home care workers remain so important. They help seniors stay in their homes by providing everything from basic help with daily essentials like bathing and taking medications to skilled nursing when necessary. Additionally, in-home care services are less costly overall than institutional-based care, which translates not only into benefits for seniors’ quality of life but also advantages for long-term care sector spending.

Conclusion

The population of senior citizens is growing, and more attention must be given to the unique health and living concerns seniors face. In-home care is an important part of ensuring proper attention not only to health concerns but also quality of life. Most senior citizens prefer to stay in their own homes, and in-home care services help make this possible.


Company Bio:

Always Best Care understands that senior citizens need effective, quality care to remain in their own homes. The company provides safe, reliable in-home care covering personal, social, and skilled nursing needs. Contact Always Best Care today for a free consultation.

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America’s Health Ranking Senior Report."2014 edition, United Health Foundation, America’s Health Rankings, May 2014. Web. 1 October. 2014