By editorial board • 

We owe seniors the care we’d expect in their shoes

Our June 12 edition documented a lengthy history of local, state and national failures in the senior care industry. Unfortunately, as so often proves the case with public policy challenges, it’s easier to diagnose the disease than develop the cure.

Because of the advanceds of modern medicine, people are living longer, particularly in more developed portions of the planet. Thanks at least in part to one of those miracles — effective means of birth control — they are simultaneously delaying and reducing their rate of reproduction.

One notable impact is a swelling population at the upper end of the age scale. And it is becoming increasingly dependent on a shrinking population in the peak income-producing years of middle adulthood.

People living longer than traditionally expected tend to deplete their income just as they begin to depend on horribly expensive institutional care. With fewer people born behind them in the labor market, the capacity to fill the gap through governmental aid programs is declining rather than increasing.

The demographic shift has produced burgeoning demands for residential care services. Naturally, individuals and companies have rushed in to, depending on your perspective, address a pressing human need or capitalize on an enticing commercial opportunity.

But the care is so costly and the ability to pay so pinched, these entrepreneurs have to economize any way possible.

The industry has become widely known for low pay and high turnover. As a result, it struggles to draw top workers and managers who maintain high levels of education, training and experience.

However, that is no excuse for patients subjected to well-documented neglect or abuse over a period of months, if not years.

That can earn a bad operator some substantial fines. Worst case, it can also land him on a federal “special focus” list, but only after he clears a lengthy waiting list of other seriously sub-par performers.

For the duration of all this bureaucratic tap-dancing, the poor patient continues to spend his so-called “golden years” suffering in lonely silence. It’s not what any of us wish for our parents — or ourselves when the time comes, as it inevitably will.

We need greater vigilance and stronger enforcement at both the state and federal levels.

In 2006, the world was home to 500 million senior citizens. By 2030, demographers not only expect that number to double, but also represent an ever-expanding percentage of the overall population.

During the same period, America’s senior component is projected to swell from less that 40 million to more than 70 million. And that 70 million is expected to account for fully one-fifth of our total population.

A recent report acknowledged the challenge this way: “Providing long-term care services, and support for the elderly and people with disabilities, arguably is the biggest problem in health care policy today.”

We have a window of opportunity, both nationally and internationally, but it’s closing fast. If we don’t begin addressing this problem forcefully and effectively in the immediate future, it’s going to all too quickly outstrip our ability to do so.



Long-term Care would welcome the News Register Editorial board joining in solving problems. Perhaps you could start by publishing objective and different views, seeking to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to being a part of the solution and oh yeah, not just promoting the City Manager’s money grab and resource reallocation out of seniors pocketbooks and into the city general fund through 5059.


We have offered to publish your argument on next Friday's Viewpoints section front. If you are amenable, the offer still stands.
Steve Bagwell, Editorial Page Editor

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