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There's No Easy Solution to Our Eldercare Crisis

Imagine you are the only child of two elderly, divorced parents who live in two different states, both of which are far from the state where you live. They ailing and need regular care, but you can’t afford to pay for home care or nursing homes for both of them. The cost of airfare and missed workdays for regular visits is straining your budget, too. What do you do? This kind of dilemma will increasingly confront Americans, and it will only grow more acute as the ratio of caregivers to the elderly skews increasingly toward the latter. A new study from the AARP shows just how quickly that ratio is dropping. WSJ:

The number of potential caregivers available for every person who is at least 80 years old is expected to plummet by 2030, as the older population outpaces the number of younger Americans. The ratio of people in the most common caregiving age group (45 to 64) to those most likely to need long-term care (80 and over) is expected to fall to 4 to 1 by 2030—compared with more than 7 to 1 in 2010, AARP says. By 2050, the ratio could drop to less than 3 to 1.

How can we care for the elderly well, when irreversible demographic shifts will dramatically compound the cultural shifts of geographic mobility and family fragmentation? This is a complex problem with no easy solution. Medicare offers only very limited coverage of the costs of nursing homes or home care, and convincing 30 and 40 year olds to buy long term care insurance can be a difficult sell. Perhaps the most we can say at this point is that if cultural shifts are driving the eldercare crisis, new cultural shifts will have to play a role in ameliorating it as the demographic challenges continue. There might have to be more intergenerational living, and we’ll have to increasingly rely on private charities and religious orders to care for the low-income elderly. We’ve already seen society begin to adapt to the newly extended financial dependence of young adults; perhaps we can do the same for the elderly.

[Image of nurse visting a patient from Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    The death panels in ObamaCare are part of the solution progressives will try to employ.

    After all, these enlighten ones favor unrestricted abortion. So don’t be surprised when they want to effectively put Granny to sleep via rationing when she become, to their mind, less than useful to the almighty state.

  • USNK2

    Sorry ViaMeadia is wrong again.
    The sole portable benefit I ever had from a corporate job was longterm care insurance, when I was 40. Easiest sale ever made!
    The unreadable ACA had a solution: the CLASS Act, which was dropped as unworkable by Sec Sibelius in early 2012.
    After twenty years, my LTC premium then suddenly rose 45%, not including the inflation adjustment.
    Everything the Federal gov does is now leading to forcing otherwise honest and responsible people to drain their savings so they can become poor enough to abuse Medicaid’s long term care options, which is exactly what is already bankrupting Medicaid in New York State.
    I should have gotten a Newfoundland dog like Nana in ‘Peter Pan’ instead of LTC insurance, which I doubt I shall be able to afford after 2013. At least a Newfie is not dependent on the whimsy of lawyers pretending to be government.

  • Fat_Man

    I thought Via Media was pushing Central America as a retirement home.

    • jeburke

      Ha! Good one.

  • rheddles

    “How can we care for the elderly well, when irreversible demographic
    shifts will dramatically compound the cultural shifts of geographic
    mobility and family fragmentation?”

    We won’t. That should make all you boomer haters happy.

    • Corlyss

      I despise “my generation” but this problem doesn’t make me happy. The problem didn’t start with us. It started with our parents in the immediate post-war era when we came out of the war with money to burn and a shortage of products and a hunger for stuff that was unavailable because so much of the economy had been turned over to war materiel producito . What happened then? Our economy suddenly became 70% supported by consumerism, the throw-away society arose, and conspicuous consumption debuted among the urbanized middle class in a way it had never been seen before because the middle class had never been so large and so urbanized in previous eras What was a necessary corollary of that consumerism? No savings, for anything – no savings for old age, no savings for rainy day medical expenses, no savings for kids’ education. To be sure, the most spoiled and indulged generation in the history of the planet (The Boomers) exacerbated the problem with their grasshopper lifestyles. So here we are, savings rate is plummeting again, seniors have nothing but SS and medicare and as a nation we can’t afford them any more. And nobody is willing to make the first move to fix the problem because they will end up out of office if they do. It’s another fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves in.

      • rheddles

        The most spoiled and indulged generation in history is the Millenials.

        And the anti-savings inclination in the country is at least 100 years old. It’s just that it takes a lot of time for all the unintended consequences to become apparent.

  • jeburke

    Yet another good argument againsf divorce and fractured families (not to mention how much worse eldercare will be in 40 years when legions of “single moms” are old and frail and their undomesticated menfolk are still on the loose.

  • lukelea

    I take this opportunity to plug my pet idea:

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