A Patient Advocate's View

WHCOA: 5 months later, Experts report in

Carol Marak Headshot

Experts know that older adults rely on good health to remain independent and productive but by the measure of medical diagnoses, baby boomers are sicker than their predecessors. The NCOA confirms 92 percent of older adults over 65 live with one chronic condition, more than two-thirds (77 percent) have at least two, and about 15 percent have at least six long-term ailments. The sickest account for more than $324 billion spent on traditional Medicare.

Knowing the massive numbers of sick people, financing long-term care might be unsustainable. But why didn’t the conference tackle the problem of paying for long-term care since it’s the most unstable factor eating into our retirement security? A new federal brief found that half of Americans who reach age 65 will experience severe functional needs and will pay $138,000 out of pocket for care.

The White House has access to such figures — so, why was it missed?

But that wasn’t the only one. There were a lot overlooked. Topics like the future of aging, transforming nursing homes, dementia support, and tapping the vast knowledge of older adults — all ignored. And since expert panels who could give meaningful answers to the critical issues were not included, asked prominent aging leaders to share their perspectives of what SHOULD have been discussed:

In your experience of reading about (or participating in live webinars during) the White House Conference on Aging, name one aging opportunity the conference missed?

More focus placed on retirement security, prevention of elder financial exploitation including abuse, and long-term services and supports. Evan Farr, Farr Law Firm — Strengthening Social Security and finding ways to protect pensions and Medicare not covered nearly enough. Also, the agenda overlooks our diversified older population (including ethnic, non-white, and LGBT elders).

WHCOA missed creating solutions not just revealing problems for caregivers trying to meet needs of aging carees. Kathy Birkett, Senior Care Corner — Can we give tax incentives for adult caregivers working while caregiving? How can spouses pay for items not covered by Medicare-homecare, training, co-pay, dental care, hearing aids? It would also have been helpful to have a real forum for caregivers to voice their concerns during WHCOA.

The main complaint I hear from patients is not getting to see a doctor. Caryn Isaacs, Get Health Help — The change from doctors to Physician assistants and nurses doing doctors work, the changing role of the physician to a paper pusher. I asked this question at a conference and was told that the plan was to phase out doctors.

Caregiver health and well-being isn’t covered sufficiently and that mirrors society in general. Anthony Cirillo, The Aging Experience — Family caregivers in the workforce is another important issue that needs to be discussed. A recent report looking at hospital chief experience officers and their role found a glaring lack of initiatives and priorities focused on caregiver burnout.

We need to combat Ageism. Michelle Jeong, Reminder Rosie — We need to combat Ageism directly to tap into the wisdom and experience of those over 65.

Respite for caregivers. Nancy Wurtzel, Dating Dementia — I’d like to have heard more concrete details about how to provide respite for caregivers. Respite care is discussed, but the reality is that there are not enough free or affordable programs for those of advanced age or those living with Alzheimer’s. This has to change as we are facing a rapidly aging population and it will take people and money to make this happen.

A look at senior living community regulations and how they hinder/help could be beneficial. Michelle Seitzer, — It seemed to be quite comprehensive in its scope. But perhaps a look at senior living community regulations and how they hinder/help could be beneficial, particularly as the new generation of senior living residents is already changing what these communities look like and what services they provide.

The opportunity to advance LGBT senior rights was one topic sorely overlooked. David Mordehi, Advise and Protect — Great strides were made this year in marriage equality laws; however, with Congress not funding the conference on aging in 2015, many believe the opportunity to advance LGBT senior rights was one topic sorely overlooked. Unless addressed, this populace of elders will continue to suffer discrimination when it comes to housing and healthcare.

The glaring need: to increase the frequency of the conference Nancy Ruffner, Navigate NC — It needs to rise in the frequency due to the swelling of our aging demographic and include more topics. Sure, we further engagement with watch parties and online access. We may even connect the consumer to visionary and to spur action. The rub for me and many is: one day, in 10 years time, and four topics?

Society’s stigma against aging and caregiving. Connie Chow, DailyCaring — Caregivers are isolated and feel alone in their struggles. How can they get support unless they can speak openly about their experiences and needs? Today, one in eight Americans are caregivers, so why isn’t caring for seniors discussed and supported like caring for children is?

Endorsing penalty-free and tax-free withdrawals from qualified accounts to pay for long-term care or LTC insurance. Stephen Forman, Long Term Care Associates, Inc. — This year’s WHCOA generated nearly 20 large-scale initiatives on topics ranging from aging-in-place to fall prevention. And while the White House took steps to encourage better retirement planning (via the 401(k), myRA and TSP programs), it stopped just short of that missed opportunity.

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December 16, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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