So far, aging in place has mostly taken a backseat during 2019’s Democratic presidential debates and conversations surrounding Medicare-for-All models. That may be changing — and fast.
On Thursday afternoon, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders sent a message to his more than 8.5 million followers on Twitter: “No senior should have to sell their belongings or spend their life savings just to be able to age in place. Under Medicare for All, long-term, home-based care will be guaranteed as a right to every senior and person with a disability in America.”
Currently, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ranks as one of the top three or four Democratic candidates for president in most early polls. A Gravis Marketing poll released Tuesday, for example, had Sanders leading the field in New Hampshire, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden.
To emphasize his point, Sanders included a link to a Thursday Washington Post report highlighting the “catastrophic” shortage of home-based caregivers in Maine.
About one-fifth of Maine’s population is older than 65 — a trend present in the vast majority of U.S. states. From 2015 to 2050, the number of Americans 85 and older will increase by more than 200%, while those ages 75 to 84 will rise by more than 100%, according to AARP.
“The disconnect between Maine’s aging population and its need for young workers to care for that population is expected to be mirrored in states throughout the country over the coming decade, demographic experts say,” the Washington Post report reads. “And that’s especially true in states with populations with fewer immigrants, who are disproportionately represented in many occupations serving the elderly, statistics show.”
For Sanders, highlighting home-based care is somewhat of a new development.
During a debate on July 30, for example, Sanders outlined how Medicare for All would help people gain access to things like dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses. He did not, however, mention how it would help America’s older adults gain access to home-based care or other forms of long-term care.
Other Democratic candidates have previously touched on long-term care as well. They include Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey, who unveiled plans for increased aging in place funding in July while speaking at a presidential forum in Iowa hosted by the AARP and the Des Moines Register.
Specifically, Booker’s plan calls for a bump in funding geared toward low- and middle-income seniors to help expand access to long-term care benefits available through Medicaid.
“We have a system now that’s just unfair,” Booker said during the forum. “It forces you to impoverish yourself in order to qualify for a lot of the Medicaid benefits. That to me is just unacceptable.”
About three out of four adults age 50 and older say they want to stay in their homes and communities as they age, a 2018 AARP survey found. While 76% of Americans age 50 and older say they prefer to remain in their current residence as they age, just 59% anticipate they will be able to do so.
The home is often touted as the most affordable site of care — but that doesn’t mean home care is cheap.
In fact, the average cost of full-time home care is nearly equal to the median household income in the U.S., a recent report from SeniorLiving.org found.