The baby boomer generation is now aging, a situation that is bringing with it a new set of challenges for the U.S. This demographic shift is being most strongly felt in the healthcare industry, where the already burdened American health infrastructure is preparing for an influx of millions of new elderly patients. The Affordable Care Act included new attempts to prepare the industry for these challenges, but many specific problems are still presenting themselves.
A new study by the non-profit RAND Corporation is demonstrating one way the American healthcare system may not be prepared for these new elderly patients. The study shows just how unprepared the U.S. is for a quickly-increasing number of seniors with dementia and related conditions.
The study estimates that around 15 percent of Americans over the age of 70 suffer from some type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses in particular are expected to triple by the year 2050.
The study also warns of the rising costs to the U.S. associated with dementia. RAND estimates that the annual cost of dementia care in the U.S. could double to between $318 million and $430 million by the year 2040.
The RAND study focuses specifically on ways that long-term care for dementia patients can be improved. The organization suggests policy initiatives that include increasing public awareness, improving access to long-term dementia care, and promoting higher-quality care. More support for the families of those with dementia is also suggested, including monetary support. The study also suggests that linking long-term healthcare insurance to normal health insurance could better help families who are struggling financially to care for a loved one with dementia.
“There is no one single path that is the best one to follow to provide better care for people with dementia and improve support for their caregivers,” Regina Shih, lead author of the study and a behavioral scientist at RAND. “But what is clearly needed is more and quicker action around a set of recommendations to respond to this large and growing problem.”
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