From infancy to old age, people need some form of care. Babies usually have their parents to care for them. In midlife, we can generally look to spouses or hire the care we need – from medical services to a simple shoeshine. When it comes to senior care, however, a person may be left without the ability or voice to provide for himself, and without any obvious advocate.
Coupled with the increasing heath issues that typically accompany aging, senior care takes on special importance. Sadly, the issue is so pressing that June 15 has been designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, “Each year, hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. In addition, elders throughout the United States lose and estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care.”
To better ensure adequate elder care, an individual may begin building the foundations of his or her senior years before reaching them. Dreams of retirement should take a backseat to sound planning, with great consideration given to living wills, powers of attorney, and the services that will be available – such as assisted living, home care, Medicare, etc. – when the time comes.
Those with aged loved ones should also play the role of an advocate. Those in close contact with an aging family member are that elderly person’s best defense against isolation, negligent care and other indignities.
To underscore the point, various studies have looked at the care senior citizens receive and have found their needs to be often ignored. In a 2008 study published by BMC Health Services Research , for example, researchers looked at 30,000 elderly patients and saw that “guidelines for the treatment of older patients with respiratory conditions are routinely ignored,” with nearly 20 percent not being vaccinated against influenza.
The bottom line is that senior care has obvious room for improvement. The best ways to counter that status quo is for elderly individuals to have a trusted advocate, or for that senior to construct his or her own system of care before it becomes a necessity.