Memory care story is aging of America
State regulators have threatened the license of one McMinnville memory care operation, just as construction begins on another of similar size. Both stories relate to the long-reported but too often ignored explosion of the elderly population in America.
Problems at Osprey Court in recent years were exacerbated by a perfect storm of circumstances: financial collapse of its former owner; a series of corporate takeovers; habitual deficiencies in staff and training levels; financial limitations of Medicare funding; clients with psychiatric conditions that intensified their underlying dementia.
Current operators have been working hard to right the ship, and a February hearing will reveal whether the state thinks it is enough. I would predict that the license will be renewed and, further, that more local memory care units will be under construction before long.
The underlying population projections for elderly Americans have been clear and foreboding for many years.
We may have been lulled into relative inaction during the 1990s. In that decade, the number of people 65 years and older and the number age 85 and older both increased by just 1 percent.
Jump ahead to projections for 2015. Compared to 2000, those age categories will have skyrocketed by 35 percent in the 65-plus group, and by 43 percent in the 85-plus group. These trends will continue for the next two decades.
In 2025, according to census projections, the 65-plus age group will be up 36 percent from 2015, while the 85-plus group will grow by 17 percent. And in 2035, the 10-year increases from 2025 will be 19 percent for 65-plus Americans and a staggering 57 percent for age 85-plus. In real numbers, the population of Americans age 85-plus will increase from 4.4 million in 2000 to 11.6 million in 2035.
There’s plenty of research about the progression of dementia as people age, and no shortage of statistical analysis about the aging population. Somehow, though, we don’t seem to fully appreciate the social, political and economic impact guaranteed by the current and pending collision of these trends.
We read about the extremely high cost of long-term memory care. We contemplate the economic challenges that have depleted so many family savings. We hear debates about the high cost of Medicare, which is the financial backstop for Americans incapacitated by dementia.
But still, it sometimes seems we don’t recognize the full enormity of the challenge. Meeting that challenge will require improving, not closing, the memory care operations we have, and finding diverse ways to increase our memory care capacity.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.