Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Older Americans have unique needs, and our web site offers tools to address them. Find articles, tips and resources geared towards those in the prime of life here.
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Decades down the road, historians will view our current point in time as a pivotal crossroads in American history.
Ever since the post-WWII baby boom, we've known that those born during that period would one day retire. There would be a point in time where Social Security payments would exceed tax revenue.
Analysts offered various dates that would happen in hopes of averting a potential economic crisis. None predicted it would come as early as it did in 2010.
Several factors contributed to the accelerated date of imbalance. The primary cause is the high rate of unemployment. Not only are there fewer workers to pay into the system, but a massive number of workers were forced to take early retirement when faced with job loss.
So now we try to calculate when the program's funds will be fully depleted, currently predicted to happen in 2037. Sounds like a long way off. We have plenty of time to fix this system, right?
Wrong. We're a mere 26 years away from 2037. The program began experiencing difficulties in the late 1970s. Can we expect to fix in 26 years something we couldn't achieve in 40?
Consider also Medicare reform. Here's another program designed to benefit the American people. Another one whose future is at risk.
As Medicare currently stands, reform may not be necessary. It may be defunct before it goes bankrupt.
Doctors have not seen an increase in benefit payments in over 11 years. They contract with Medicare to accept a stated amount for designated procedures. Should this involve a diagnostic visit, surgery and follow up office visits, they are not permitted to bill individual charges. They must be bundled, with Medicare choosing how to pay. A $10,000 surgery can result in reimbursement of only $500. The rest must be written off per contract agreement.
Doctors pay more than for operating room privileges alone, before any other expenses come into play. Why would any professional consent to such an agreement?
Fewer and fewer are doing so. They just can't afford to participate in the Medicare program.
There were 19.1 million people enrolled for Medicare coverage in 1966. That number rose to 47 million in 2010, a 147 percent increase. It's expected to reach 80 million by 2030.
Program reform, like Social Security, is essential for sustainability. Anybody would agree to this.
Yet one thing stands in the way of true progress. Politics.
I'm not blaming Democrats or Republicans. I'm saying there's plenty of blame to point at both sides.
Republicans blocked efforts by President Clinton to privatize Social Security in 1999. His successor, George W. Bush, was met with the same resistance in 2005 when presenting the same plan his opponents embraced just six years earlier.
It didn't matter whether the plan merited discussion. Each party criticized the effort simply because it was introduced by the other.
The same holds true with Medicare right now. Facts are skewed to make each side appear cold and heartless in the eyes of the public. Paul Ryan will kill Medicare, claim opponents to the White House budget chief's plan. Proponents claim the program will go bankrupt by 2020 without reform.
And public outrage explodes on both sides of the fence.
Mainstream media is no better. Gone are the likes of Walter Cronkite, who labored to report just the facts and leave his opinion at home. The rise of cable news stations gives each side a place to present their platform to an audience who share their views. Today's news programs report opinion, leaving the facts at home.
Perhaps former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said it best. Appearing on Fox News, he cited one reason leading to his decision not to run for President of the United States in 2012. He believes that politicians today are too involved with partisanship, they're no longer there to solve problems.
And that's a shame. Not only is it a black mark on those we elect to lead our country, it can lead to a nation engulfed in strife. Our elected officials must uphold the interests of the American people, we're not paying them to engage in petty bickering. It's time someone took the reigns and did just that. True Social Security and Medicare reform would be a good place to start. You can be sure we'll remember come November elections.
Choosing a Senior Living Community
One of the most difficult tasks a family can undertake is assuring their loved one has proper care as they age.
Humans are independent creatures by nature. We're taught how to care for ourselves at a young age. But you won't find any lessons on aging.
There are different levels of elder care. Many people don't need the intensity of a nursing home. They can fend for themselves, but have difficulty with certain functions they once took for granted. Like getting back up after a fall, or turning the stove off after cooking a meal.
For these people, assisted living makes a good alternative. There are good facilities in most communities. But how do you know which is the right one for your loved one?
Tour several assisted living facilities. Observe the other residents. Do they have anything in common with your loved one? Do they have the same social or professional background? Do they speak the same language? Do they have similar impairments or limitations? Do they look content?
Ask to see a schedule of activities. Are they the type your loved one would participate in? Try to attend one to see what's going on first hand.
Is the staff experienced in the type of care your loved one requires? Are members of a medical staff on-site? Do they have the provisions to address needs that will change in the future?
Visit the facility around mealtime. If possible, eat a meal while you're there to see if the food is good and fresh. Evaluate the dining room experience. Are special meals or diets available? What about special requests?
Household services offered can differ from one facility to the next. If your loved one can't cook, clean, or do laundry any longer, make sure these services are offered by the community you choose. How often are services provided? How responsive is the staff to accidents that may occur?
Speak to as many staff members as possible during your visit. Get a sense of how they feel about the facility and whether they enjoy working there. Are they warm, friendly and respectful? Do they appear to be caring individuals? Learn about the hiring process, particularly whether or not a criminal background check is conducted. The quality of the staff is much more important than the quantity.
Will the facility hold a bed if your loved one is hospitalized or needs temporary rehabilitation? How close is the nearest hospital?
Consider the size of the living space. While you may want to provide the largest space available, it may not be the best option. Typically, a person will become more reclusive when they have more space. Socialization is important to guard against depression.
It will be a difficult move for your loved one when they have to leave the family home. They're leaving behind a lifetime of memories; raising a family, home repairs gone awry, holiday celebrations. All those little events that turn a house into a home.
Have patience. Expect fits of anger, bouts of depression and hysterical outbursts. It will take some time for them to become comfortable with their new lifestyle. In the meantime, you may find yourself labeled the villain no matter how necessary it was to make the move.
Visit frequently. Take them shopping for a day, or treat them to a restaurant meal. If you promise a visit, show up. Your continued love and support will help make the adjustment easier.
The Federal government is once again rolling out another stimulus package, this time targeting small business. The Small Business Lending Fund is rolling out a program to lend banks money who will in turn lend to small businesses. The program has earmarked $30 billion to lend to community banks with assets of less than $10 billion or less. The banks will pay interest between 1 percent and 9 percent for amount borrowed with the rate determined in part by the amount lent to small businesses. A qualified small business cannot have more than $50 million in revenues and a loan amount of $10 million or less.
The small business administration has several programs that target the growth and success of small businesses. There is help in starting and managing a business, including writing a business plan. Some of the assistance is online at sba.gov, with more available through their offices. The program above is designed to make capital available to banks to facilitate the various programs available to small business.
Employment had a less-than-stellar performance in May with the unemployment rate increasing from 9.0 percent to 9.1 percent. Added jobs from new business will be a welcome addition to the economy.
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