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Need for institutional care may increase, AARP report says

August 26, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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More seniors may need institutional care in the future as fewer family members are available to care for them, according to a report issued today by the AARP Public Policy Institute.

“Rising demand and shrinking families to provide support suggest that the United States needs a comprehensive person- and family-centered [long-term services and supports (LTSS)] policy that would better serve the needs of older persons with disabilities, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and promote greater efficiencies in public spending,” say authors Donald L. Redfoot, PhD; Lynn Feinberg, MSW; and Ari N. Houser, writing in “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap.” The former two are senior strategic policy advisers to the institute, and the latter is a senior methods adviser.

The researchers calculated the availability of caregivers by dividing the number of people in the most common caregiving age range (45 to 64 years) by the number of older people most at risk of needing LTSS (those aged 80 or more years). They found that, in 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than seven potential caregivers for every person in the high-risk group. By 2030, however, they say, the ratio will decline sharply to four caregivers for every person in the high-risk group, and the ratio is expected to fall to 2.9 caregivers for every high-risk person in 2050, when all boomers will be in the high-risk years of life.

“The policy decisions we make during the next decade will make a big difference in our ability to meet the challenges associated with the aging of the baby boom,” the authors maintain. A societal shift from family to institutional care for the frail elderly will come with “great personal cost – as well as costs to healthcare and LTSS programs,” they say.

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