Home Care Businesses Fill Void As Alzheimer’s Care Units Decline

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Home Instead Senior Care predicts that resources will not keep pace with an increasing number of Alzheimer’s patients forecast in the decades ahead. The landscape is poised for the development of businesses that would help those suffering from this disease and their stressed-out families.

Senior with Alzheimer's disease

One in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

With more seniors wanting to stay at home and fewer nursing beds available, the strain will continue to increase on the nation’s family caregivers.

Recent industry statistics released by the Alzheimer’s Association foretell a sobering future for U.S. seniors, many of whom are destined for a life dealing with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, these same older adults and their families could soon be facing shortages of resources to help their seniors stay at home.

According to the recently released Alzheimer’s Association’s 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, 5.1 million people in the U.S. aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to reach 7.7 million by 2030, more than a 50 percent increase.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and, at present, irreversible brain disorder that is characterized by a steady decline in cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities severe enough to interfere with everyday life and necessitate full-time care, according to industry experts.

As the disease progresses, physical problems may include loss of strength and balance, and diminishing bladder and bowel control. As more and more of the brain is affected, areas that control basic life functions, like swallowing and breathing, become irreversibly damaged, resulting eventually in death.

Home care is growing as a result of the increasing incidence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, said Paul Hogan, Co-Founder and CEO of the Home Instead Senior Care network, the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home care and companionship services for senors. One in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.

“In the past, care communities have been the only options for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,” Hogan said. “But with more seniors wanting to stay at home – about 86 percent in our surveys – and fewer nursing beds available, the strain will continue to increase on the nation’s family caregivers. These caregivers often need assistance with their loved ones as the disease progresses.”

The total number of nursing facility beds (in dedicated special care units) in the U.S. decreased from 1,717,165 in June 2007 to 1,708,721 beds in December 2009. The number of beds in Alzheimer’s special care units went down even more dramatically during that time, from 90,285 to 83,796, according to the American Health Care Association (AHCA).

This national trend could confirm a growing need for more resources, and a growing market for senior care businesses. “Since almost half of nursing home residents in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and only 5 percent of nursing home beds are in Alzheimer’s special care units, it is clear that the great majority of nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not in Alzheimer’s special care units,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2009 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.

As a result, family caregivers are stretched thin and feeling the crunch. More than 40 percent of family and other unpaid caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, compared with 28 percent of caregivers of other older people, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. About one-third of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia also have symptoms of depression, the report noted.

“That’s why developing resources to help these families should be our top priority,” Hogan said, “and why Home Instead Senior Care is working to address the changing needs of our growing senior population.”

To inform potential franchise owners about business opportunities that are evolving from the growing need for in-home care, Home Instead Senior Care is conducting a one-hour webinar on April 29th, 2010, at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The webinar is open to the public, who can register online.

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Erin Albers
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