The senior population in the U.S. faces various challenges in obtaining and maintaining many health services that people in good health take for granted. As a result, legislators have enacted several mandates that encourage preparation for retirement, support senior care and allow greater numbers of aging patients to remain in their homes. This is critical for seniors, especially those diagnosed with acute health conditions who are the most vulnerable.
Less than half of all Medicare participants visit the dentist each year. Older Americans find it disproportionately difficult to secure adequate dental services. For lower income seniors, this rate hovers between 26 and 28 percent. For example, many seniors who subsist on $850 per month have not visited the dentist in 10 to 20 years; they often cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket expenses for dental care.
Today, seniors are living longer. Contrary to past generations, many do not expect to wear dentures. These patients could benefit greatly from the preventative care provided during regular dental visits. Despite this, the senior population experiences increasing difficulty in maintaining regular dental visits that preserve their oral health, regardless of the fact that the population is at heightened risk for problems, such as receding gums and tooth decay.
As seniors age, some experience degrading cognitive functioning, such as memory and communication impairments. For some, these challenges can greatly impact their ability to enjoy a comfortable quality of life.
Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can make it difficult to perform daily activities of living. This could lead to additional complications such as anxiety, depression and paranoia. As a result, many of today’s seniors seek treatment for behavioral health conditions.
Behavioral therapy for conditions such as depression and anxiety can help seniors cope with the onset of common geriatric issues and the changes associated with aging. This is especially helpful for seniors whose family members or caregivers participate in counseling sessions. Professional behavioral services can also connect senior patients and family members with relevant community resources such as outreach and assessment or outpatient counseling.
To aid in delivering treatment to the growing senior population, America’s health care talent pool needs an infusion of capable professionals ready to deliver services to the this special group. Seniors benefit greatly from services for depression and anxiety provided by mental health specialists who deliver treatment in patients’ homes. For more serious behavioral health conditions, this population needs specialized treatment delivered by inpatient geropsychiatric professionals. Finally, memory and cognitive disorders represents another service area where this populations’ service needs demand more trained talent.
Most individuals would prefer to age in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their homes. However, some seniors require special modifications to their homes to improve or facilitate accessibility.
Few seniors are fortunate enough to live in homes that already accommodate their health needs as they relate to accessibility. While modifications for accessibility can prove expensive, seniors or family members can find affordable solutions by doing some research.
When adding accessibility improvements to a home, it’s important to consider aesthetics, convenience and the ability to make additional changes in the future. This might include doorways that offer no resistance to wheelchairs or motorized personal transportation devices; a feature called zero-threshold entry. Other accessibility solutions may include offset door hinges, extra wide doorways and low-positioned light switches and controls for appliances. Another key consideration can include constructing or providing structurally sound, flat and low table surfaces. These can assist mobility-impaired seniors with their daily activities as well as provide extra physical support when needed.
Compassionate, knowledgeable caregivers and accessible living environments can give senior patients the means to lead satisfying lives. To achieve this, professionals involved in senior health must advocate for health services that are more consistent and comprehensive, and for more widespread support of America’s aging population. Additionally, senior health professionals can make an effort to learn about available resources at the community level. These can often help families provide attentive care for their aging loved ones.
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