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Long-Term Care Must Be Improved

As millions of Americans struggle to help loved ones with dementia, policymakers should consider more ways to improve long-term services and supports for the soaring numbers of people with the debilitating condition and their caregivers, according to a new RAND Corporation study done in June 2014. Thereport also offers possible ways to achieve those goals.

A release from RAND reports that unlike other national plans or reports that focus on either long-term care or dementia, the RAND study examines where these concerns intersect, providing “a national blueprint that could bolster dementia caregiving”.

Earlier RAND research estimated that about 15 percent of Americans older than 70 suffer from dementia, a condition that includes Alzheimer’s disease. The number of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to triple by 2050, afflicting as many as 14 million in the United States.

The annual costs of dementia care, estimated by RAND researchers to be between $159 billion and $215 billion, could more than double by 2040 if the age-specific prevalence rate of the disease remains constant as the nation’s population grows older. U.S. policymakers have made funding for clinical responses to dementia a priority.

The release quotes lead author Regina A. Shih as saying, “A recent study by RAND found that the majority of Americans’ cost-burden for dementia is caused by long-term care. As baby boomers reach the ages of highest dementia risk, the nation faces urgency in finding ways to improve long-term services and supports specifically for this condition. This issue is critical for families and loved ones who provide the bulk of dementia care.”

The study outlines 25 high-impact policy options that should be considered for adoption immediately. The recommendations are organized around five objectives:

• Increase public awareness of dementia to reduce stigma and promote earlier detection.

• Improve access to and use of long-term services and supports for people with dementia.

• Promote high-quality care that is focused on meeting the needs of individuals and family caregivers.

• Provide better support for family members who provide caregiving to people with dementia.

• Reduce the financial burden placed upon individuals and families who must pay for long-term services and support for people with dementia.

RAND researchers say meeting the objectives will require effort across multiple sectors and by numerous stakeholders, including groups that provide care or purchase care, as well as researchers and policymakers.

New legislation or changes to existing regulations may be needed to authorize some policies, such as a proposed expansion of home and community-based services. Other barriers may be operational, such logistical challenges to linking together long-term care insurance and health insurance. In some instances barriers may be political, such as expected opposition by some groups to a single-payer long-term care insurance system.

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