The term ‘eldercare’ refers to services specifically designed to cater to the needs of elderly individuals. Sometimes known as ‘aged care,’ it includes provisions such as daytime monitoring and assistance, supervised living, full time care, hospice centers and nursing homes. As eldercare serves a huge variety of needs, it is a multifaceted and multifarious industry that cannot be pinned down to just one definition.
It’s also worth noting differing perceptions of elder care throughout the world. In many Asian countries, it’s considered unusual for an elderly person to live in a nursing home. The expectation is for family members to live with and take care of elderly parents and grandparents. In western countries, it’s quite common for older people to move out of their own homes and into nursing homes when mobility or cognition declines.
At the heart of all high quality aged care services is respect. Often, very elderly customers can’t fully appreciate the intent or impact of the services. Provision of these services can, therefore, be a thankless task. Yet, the customer must be at the forefront of all decision making. This is a customer-centric sector and all housing, activities, medical provisions and job training must make the customer a priority.
Cultural Perceptions of Aged Care Services
The nature and scope of elder care varies greatly across the world. As the majority of global populations continue to get older – more people are living to an advanced age – perceptions of aged care services are changing. There can be huge differences between continents but also among different social groups within countries.
While most cultures agree on the importance of aged care, what it should encompass and how it should operate are topics of great debate. Often, perceptions of these facilities are affected by broader factors like the health of economies and national health services, particularly as older people cost governments more in health expenditures than any other social group.
A century ago, families in most cultures were expected to manage elderly care as a personal and familial responsibility. As in Asia, it was the job of younger family members to care for older parents and grandparents by providing in home assistance. As cultural expectations have changed, it has become more acceptable to pay for care from a third party agency or receive state funded services.
Some reasons for this change include people having fewer children to care for them in their advanced age, people living much longer, more families living in different states or even different countries and the cultural normalization of women being educated and finding work outside the home. Interestingly, though Asian cultures retain a much more traditional perception of eldercare than western countries, habits here are also changing.
Cultural Differences in Aged Care Provisions
In western nations, aged care facilities include residential family care homes, nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities (or CCRCs) and in-house assisted living services. Residential family care homes are one of the newest options and differ from standard nursing homes because they are small scale, have an intimate set up (usually no more than six residents per home) and treat the facility more like a private residence.
For instance, residential family care homes are treated as private residences with instant access to support staff and assistance. Nursing homes are more like clinics or small scale hospitals and are better suited to those with complex medical needs.
Traditionally, women have been the ones to care for elderly family members in their own homes. This is still the case. While many men do take on the role or contribute towards at home informal care, women invest 50% more time.
Throughout the world, the proportion of women who handle elderly care requirements rarely dips below 59% and is as high as 75% in some countries. Typically, women providing informal care for older parents or grandparents are over the age of forty, married, in full time employment and earning around $35,000 per year.
Elder Care Services in the United States
At the moment, there are over 36,000 assisted living centers across America. They cater to over one million residents. In the United States, there are almost 40 million people over the age of sixty five years. This accounts for approximately 13% of the population or one in every eight citizens.
The number is expected to reach 72 million by 2030 which is closer to 19% of the country’s population. The need for aged care facilities will inevitably soar in response. For the United States, 22% of all medical expenditure is invested in end of life care. Like many countries in Europe, the States operates most of its nursing homes and other aged care provisions as publicly owned enterprises.
There are some exceptions, but they are in the minority. One of the most prominent is the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. It is, by some margin, the biggest provider of not-for-profit elderly care in America. In 1995, it operated more than 6,500 residency spots across twenty-two different states and these numbers are likely to have grown.
Some of the newer elder care options in the United States involve private assistance in the patient’s own home. This type of in-house residential care is considered to be a potential solution to the problems caused by aging populations. It enables elderly people to remain in their own homes for longer by offering monitoring, supervision, and support from private properties as opposed to shared facilities.
This type of service can also be used to support primary caregivers who are aiding elderly family members. They have the option to request temporary in-house monitoring (provided by an external agency) if they need to be away from home. Although in-house services are more informal than nursing homes, all care providers should still be thoroughly vetted.
To find out more about elder care options in your state, get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging. The government advises all individuals consider these services to conduct research, collect information from trusted sources, and make a fully informed choice.