We always hear about the rising number of Americans who turn to hospitals (particularly Emergency Rooms) as their primary source of healthcare. Likewise, we hear a lot about the constantly rising costs of nursing homes in America — especially here in Massachusetts and throughout New England.
I was struck, then, by a recent New York Times article that makes a surprising report: senior citizens are increasingly less reliant on hospitals for healthcare, as nursing homes are able to step up to the plate in their place.
Why the shift? Here are a few factors:
- Healthcare Mobility — As the Times notes, many complex procedures like blood transfusions used to require several days spent in an outpatient hospital wing. These days, those same procedures can practically be done on the go. Nursing homes can give their residents a quick lift to a nearby medical center for a transfusion in a matter of hours. All of the follow-up care, including IV therapy, can be done back in the resident’s own room.
- Risk of Injury and Infection— Despite popular belief, the hospital isn’t the safest place for the elderly. Falls, bedsores, depression, and hospital-acquired infections are all dangerous and increasingly common risks of any hospital stay. While those perils are present in nursing homes too, the rates of occurrence tend to be a little lower there.
- Costs — Nursing homes are extremely expensive, but so are hospitals. Regularly relying on hospital clinics or Emergency Rooms can prove even more financially taxing than the monthly nursing home bill. That fact has insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid urging nursing homes to ramp up their roster of hospital-like services.
Of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Amazingly, many of today’s nursing homes still don’t staff registered nurses 24/7, and not all homes offer the same easy access to nearby outpatient clinics.
It is encouraging to know, though, that alternative approaches to senior care are developing quickly. Within the next few years, we may see seniors spend less and less time in hospitals, and that should hopefully translate to financial savings, fewer infections, and a lower rate of hospital-related injury.
Naturally, though, paying for nursing home care remains a real challenge, regardless of how much additional time gets spent in a hospital. Fortunately, proactive planning can make those costs much more manageable. To that end, my office can be of some help. Give me a call today to talk about setting up a plan that makes sense for you.