More than half of adults over age 50 would rather die than do one thing. Do you know what it is?
The answer is enter a nursing home. Or be “stuck” as many people put it – as in the phrase, “I don’t want to be stuck in a nursing home.” That’s according to a recent poll from Nationwide Retirement Institute, which also found that 7 out of 10 respondents listed healthcare expenses as one of their top retirement fears.
One day – unless you die before your time – you’re going to be old. Right now, about 25 percent of older adults will enter a nursing home at some point. 36 percent of those residents are transferred to another facility and 25 percent don’t leave at all. Only 30 percent of nursing home residents ever return home.
Nursing home residency isn’t ideal for anyone. It’s the most expensive form of long-term care, for one thing. A private room is now more than $100,000 a year, according to Genworth Financial. And that’s before adding in the cost of long-term care, which runs as high as $102,200 annually. (In comparison, a healthy 65-year-old couple retiring now will spend about $285,000 on healthcare over their retirement, including medication and Medicare premiums.)
While many people have a vague assumption that government programs will cover most of the cost, Original Medicare only pays some nursing home costs, such as up to 100 days for rehabilitation after a qualifying hospital stay. After those 100 days, patients are financially on the hook – which typically burns through their savings and forces them to apply for Medicaid.
There’s also the quality of life factor. As the Nationwide Retirement Institute survey shows, most people want to grow old in the comfort of their own home with family and friends nearby. The survey found people feared loneliness and loss of independence in nursing home life; privacy is also a concern. Yet seniors don’t want to be a burden to their family and depend on them for round-the-clock home care, either.
That’s where telemedicine comes in to help everyone, old and young, stay stronger in their golden years. Living longer isn’t the only goal of good medical care; patients want to optimize their physical and mental condition in their prime so they can avoid disease and disability later. Virtual care can help them do just that in multiple ways.
Rejuvenating the Retirement Years and Beyond
Telemedicine is already helping seniors stay in their homes longer. Some states have launched programs to reduce nursing home residency after a hospitalization, including rewarding nursing homes with incentive payments when they lower their long-term resident numbers. Often specialists help older adults stay in their communities by using telemedicine to connect them to the services and support they need. Home health aides can collaborate with primary care physicians or gerontologists, who can spot deterioration or the need for intervention – whether that’s a medication change, kidney dialysis or a service like Meals on Wheels.
But telemedicine doesn’t just treat immediate illnesses – it opens a door to better health that can improve the rest of the patient’s life. Think of a busy executive whose hypertension and high cholesterol go untreated for years because her demanding work hours make it hard to get to appointments. Or a farmer who’d like to seek tobacco cessation treatment but the nearest resources are three hours from his rural community. Telemedicine’s flexibility and convenience can help almost everyone fit preventive and medical care into their lifestyle. Patients can treat conditions like depression, pre-diabetes, osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease that often exact a heavy toll later in the form of strokes, crippling injuries and other disabling incidents.
A new year is just weeks away. Some of us have already made resolutions to eat healthier meals, save more money or get serious about a new workout regimen. But how many of us have decided to commit to better preventive medical care – especially if we’re currently in good health? Quality care can be the ultimate gift we give our future selves. Telemedicine makes it easier to make wise choices today and become healthier people tomorrow.