CHICO, Calif. – California’s population is aging. The California State Plan on Aging estimates that by 2030, the number of people over the age of 85 is projected to increase by over 70 percent. By 2050, it is anticipated the population of those over 85 will be 2.26 million people. Is our state ready for the boom?
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough recently spoke with a number of individuals facing the challenges of caring for a senior relative.
Debra Craton spent the past 12 years caring for her 95-year old mother, Delores. Craton said a final goodbye in September. She says although she was prepared for her mother’s passing, when the moment came it was surreal and says it has left a void.
Craton is a registered nurse and has been a health care advocate for more than 15 years. She understands perhaps more than most the realities of caring for an aging relative.
She describes her daily routine as getting up at 5 AM, taking care of her mother; with meals, medication, clothing and daily needs. Her children would then help once she left for work. As soon as she returned home, her duties included caring for her mother for dinner, taking care of her personal needs, getting her ready for bed and then still completing her own responsibilities. Craton says most nights, she would not get to bed until close to midnight, knowing she would have to get up again the next day at 5 AM to start the process over again.
As an employee within the healthcare field, Craton says her experiences showed her gaps within the care system. She points out that while many seniors are covered by Medicare, that safety-net does not cover expenses for in-home care for a senior nor many of the devices and or medications that some seniors need. Coverage is offered for an individual who may need a visit to the hospital and then be placed into rehabilitation or need therapy upon a return home, but not long-term, ongoing assistance that so many seniors need. She is advocating that more assistance be offered to family caregivers who are responsible for their loved ones.
Based on the population trends in California, Craton’s experiences could soon become the norm, not the exception. With an anticipated boom in the senior population, California will be impacted in regards to housing, transportation, medical care and caregiving needs.
Kaliahna Tripp owns Happy at Home, a Chico-based firm offering in-home care for. She says the projected numbers do seem ‘daunting.’ She says the sheer number of seniors that are coming means society must pay attention to what that means in terms of care and the resulting impacts. She says the situation becomes even more crucial when care-providers take into consideration the numbers of those who have dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Tripp says even with a staff of more than 150 people, her agency struggles to keep up with demand.
She says the care industry is heavy on those who need care and light on those who provide care. She describes it as a problem, in that there are simply not enough people.
In anticipation of the demographic shifts in aging, California Governor Gavin Newsom included a Master Plan on Aging in his first state budge. A task force is currently studying the wide-ranging impacts of what caring for a greying population will mean to our state and how best to do so, especially taking into consideration the cultural, economic and geographic diversity of California.
To learn more about the Master Plan on Aging, Yarbough recently joined the first task force meeting in Sacramento to speak with the project director.
Anastasia Dotson with the California Department of Aging says part of the goal with the Master Plan on Aging, is to not simply have a report that will sit on a shelf, but to gather enough information in order to have a blueprint that can be used by local communities so care providers and individuals have a tool kit; one that identifies promising practices that are still being developed and those that are implemented. Dotson says doing so will allow practices to be suited to specific areas; both rural and urban.
She says the aging population and the California Master Plan on Aging will allow the state to look for solutions in how the state addresses housing, transportation, access to medical care and services for caregivers.
There are some business models which are already looking to adapt to the changing needs. Wade Elliott of Westhaven Senior Living in Orland, says the property offers homes which allow five to six people to live under one roof, with a live-in caregiver on hand. He sees trends changing to include smaller, more personalized options for seniors. There are also options for individuals to have their own apartment units, but with 24-hour assistance for light daily living and meals.
Elliott says the success of the entire state of California depends on society addressing the needs of an aging population in a way that is supportive of the whole. He says it is not beneficial to bankrupt society by providing healthcare services to our elders, but says nobody wants to neglect those needs either.
He says there are challenges in meeting the growing needs, in that there are inadequate numbers of caregivers; whether family or hired staff, to meet the demand of those who need care.
Elliott says this changing demographics and the associated needs offer an opportunity for society to place more value on our elders.
At Westhaven, Yarbough met 83 year old Douglas, who says he never thought about the realities of growing old; just assumed he would always care for himself.
But that is not the case. He has 24-hour assistance and is no longer in his own home. His advice for others?
He says many people reach his age and they have not planned; they have little or no savings or insurance and if they need care, have no options other than what he calls “third-rate facilities.” He says individuals should make sure they can afford proper care as they age. The costs for the care Douglas has access to and others at his development can run anywhere from two to six-thousand dollars a month. For individuals with modest finances, options for senior living and care are limited.
Craton, who is still grieving over the loss of her mother, says she is fearful of the ‘Senior Tsunami’ and what it means for the millions who will need care and the families tasked with taking care of them. She says her experiences are now motivating her to help others and advocate for change.
She says for years, ‘talk’ has been in the health care space that changes are needed but believes little has changed. She says solutions to this issue are not ones that can be left to the next generation. Craton’s hard-learned advice for others?
She says stay as healthy as possible and have plan; have a network of people to help you and build savings. She says people should no longer think about retirement savings as a fund for vacations but rather, money that one may need to use for healthcare as they age.
The following resources are available for those seeking more information on senior care: