Millions of seniors are struggling to meet their basic needs. From health care to housing to caregiving, there are not enough resources to go around, according to a new article in the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-pol-ca-next-california-demographics/#nws=mcnewsletter). These struggles will only grow as the population of California’s seniors, the fastest-growing population, continues to increase. In 2016, there were 5.5 million seniors in California. By 2060, that number is expected to climb to 13.5 million, or 26% of the population (from 14%).
Healthcare and caregiving programs are already stretched.
There are currently about 1.2 million California seniors enrolled in Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid system for low-income individuals. Medi-Cal, unlike Medicare, covers long-term care. However, there are not enough long-term care facilities to go around. As senior poverty increases, older adults are the fastest-growing population of homeless people. Unless the government makes plans for ensuring that there is enough funding for Medi-Cal and other programs that seniors depend on, California could find itself in crisis.
Those who do not qualify for Medi-Cal must rely on other sources of care. Some have family members who can care for them, but many do not. For those who need to go to a long-term care facility, they face a median cost of $116,000/year for a room. The median yearly cost for a home healthcare aide is $57,000. For many, these costs are simply insurmountable.
For those who need assistance, some qualify for In-Home Supportive Services to pay a caregiver. Often, IHSS caregivers are family members who already are providing care to an elderly relative. For those without a built-in support system, IHSS caregivers can be difficult to find. IHSS caseload has increased by 30% in the last ten years, and will only continue to increase.
Contra Costa County’s seniors struggle with high costs of living and fixed incomes.
In our practice, we see these issues all too often. Our clients are often struggling on a fixed income to maintain their housing and to find adequate caregiving. Contra Costa County has no rent control, and there are no special protections afforded to senior or disabled renters. Many seniors are at risk of being priced out of their homes and apartments.
Some of our clients find themselves in inappropriate housing placements after hospitalization or eviction. Others are supporting other family members, such as adult children and grandchildren, which can put a further strain on already-thin resources. Still others find themselves in increasing amounts of debt as they take out loans to cover basic living expenses.
On a larger scale, it seems that issues related to aging do not receive as much attention as other social issues and, certainly, not as much as is warranted. Aging is a universal experience and should matter to everyone. We have an opportunity to come together–at both the local and national level–to ensure that all seniors are able to age with dignity.