In remarks to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, Foster, who has worked in senior care for 20 years, said seniors are the fastest growing population in the U.S. In 2012, there were 37 million that were 65 years of age or older. By 2050, there will be 81 million in that age group. And care has become shorter term in many cases and very expensive.
Hospitals provide the highest level of care where Medicare or private insurance usually covers much of the cost. But these hospital stays are overseen by case managers, physicians and insurance officials. Each diagnosis code equals a number of days in the hospital. When previously you would have stayed in the hospital until you recovered, the hospital is now managing acute symptoms and moving other patients out more quickly.
Hospital stay days are on the decline, Foster said. In 2003, the average stay was six days. By 2012, it was only four days, and that number is continuing to shrink. Insurance oversight and Medicare cutbacks are changing the ways care is handled for seniors and Americans in general.
These changes have added partners to the continuum of care. When seniors are discharged from the hospital, there are usually two options: go to a rehabilitation facility or nursing home, or choose to have Home Health, utilizing skilled agencies that can provide care in the home. Both options are usually covered by insurance as a short-term solution.
Foster said about 60% of seniors will go to a rehab or nursing facility at some time in their lives. Medicare covers up to 100 days for a specific illness. Home health will provide therapists three times a week, but insurance coverage is usually capped at six weeks a year.
Seniors increasingly are choosing to move into retirement communities that offer independent living coupled with assisted living, a skilled nursing facility and even specialized memory care in the same complex.
While these communities offer many positives, they are also expensive, with an initial enrollment fee in the tens of thousands of dollars, monthly fees from $5,000 to $8,000 per month, and even then with a qualifying health assessment that may disqualify applicants. Foster encourages those considering a full-service retirement community to move in while they are healthy.
Speaking of memory care, Foster said 5.3 million Americans currently suffer from memory loss and that number is going to double by 2050. This specialized care requires specially trained staffing in usually a smaller secured environment, which includes reminders about daily care and encouragement to participate in activities and socialization. This option can range in cost from $5,000 to $12,000.
"If there is any memory loss, you should look at a senior community that includes this care option," Foster said. "Although it may not be needed immediately, as a senior with memory loss ages and the disease progresses, there may be a time when the community that does not have memory care may not be able to keep that individual in the complex and you would have to look at other options."
Home care is often everyone's preferred option when a senior needs help. But there are costs -- $18-$22 per hour -- and risks. The homeowner faces liabilities in using a neighbor, friend or even a family member who lacks care skills. She recommends using a registered referral agency to find caregiver names.
"You will have to pay the caregiver's taxes and a background check," Foster said.
She also recommends increasing homeowners insurance to cover the caregiver's liability.
For more information, contact Foster at Sunrise of Pleasanton at 5700 Pleasanton Hill Road or her email at [email protected]/