How does American Senior Care compare globally?

How well do we care for our elderly population in America compared to other countries? Americans spend at least twice as much on health care as residents of other developed countries, but generally receive lower quality, less efficiency, and a less equitable system. Health care spending in the US averages more than $7,000 per person per year, but many Americans receive no health care at all. In this regard, the United States ranked last compared to six other countries: Great Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

In a study comparing elder care in Denmark and Germany to that in the US, both make our system confusing and callous. Every legal resident of Denmark is entitled to essentially free health care for the elderly. The German system is not so generous. However, home care is free and the system even pays for a professional carer to fill in while a carer takes a vacation of up to four weeks.

It is actually not possible to compare care for the elderly in the US with that in developing countries. Institutional care is rare in Asia, Africa and Latin America and extended family usually try to care for their seniors. Also, life expectancy is much lower in many of these countries: Malawi (41 years) and Zimbabwe (37.9 years) compared to 77.9 years in America. China, one of the fastest growing economies, still links a lot of elderly care to families. Acute care is also limited to short-term care. However, in various regions of China, you see more retirement homes popping up. Japan has a very rapidly growing elderly population and care is divided between family, medical facilities and community centers. It was surprising to some researchers to learn that more than a quarter of the elderly in Japan, however, consider the quality of their medical care to be a very serious problem. This is a surprise, because it was thought that the Japanese elderly would receive much more respect and reverence because of their age.

As seniors in America finally reach a point of increasing helplessness, they need to get the right care. The United States has a patchwork of long-term care. More than 50 million Americans have no health insurance at all, and it’s uncertain how many seniors are trapped between age 55 and the age when Medicare or Medicaid kicks in. A fortunate minority have private long-term care insurance. Many others must fund or impoverish themselves to qualify for Medicaid coverage. Thus, relatives, usually husbands and daughters, come with the sometimes overwhelming duty of caring for the senior. While many are convinced that healthcare for senior citizens in America needs to be restored, there seems to be no agreement on how to provide a lasting solution that would improve care without breaking the bank.