The world population is aging at an astonishing rate. In the 1950s, only 5% of the global population comprised of people with at least 65 years of age, but by 2006, the proportion had skyrocketed to 8%, and it is further expected to rise to 13% by 2030 (International Federation of Social Workers [IFSW], 2012). This phenomenon has occurred mainly because of the increased lifespan that inaugurated the tendency of most people dying in their old age. The baby boomers and other subsequent generations will add to the more elderly population. This population overload is further heightened by the decline in fertility rates, an increase in international migration, and the burden of HIV/AIDS among many other factors. The United Nations Organization forecasts that adults with at least 60 years of age will outnumber the population of children under the age of 15 years by 2045 (IFSW, 2012). This paper discusses various aspects of lifespan health issues in the global health of older adults including the historical perspective, the importance of health disparities, and chronic disease burden among many others.
In the past, older adults did not receive recognition in the teaching and learning of nursing. The application of wellness concept has expanded over the past 50 years when the society began supporting vitality and longevity in gerontology through health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment (McMahon & Fleury, 2012). Traditionally, there was a perception that most growth and development changes occur between birth and adolescence, though the life-span approach asserts that this happens throughout the life of a person since there is no supreme age period impacting the life course (Berk, 2007). The Historical lifespan perspective has four assumptions that consider development to be lifelong, highly plastic, multidimensional, and multidirectional and affected by many interacting forces (Berk, 2007). Currently, the learning of nursing on lifespan issues considers development to be taking place through the life of a person, and the role of nurses and other care providers is to enhance longevity and vitality through the promotion of health, and prevention and treatment of diseases.
Healthcare disparities that occur because of race, ethnicity, disability status, gender, and socioeconomic status are fundamental in the health of diverse populations including older people. The disparities affect different groups of people by limiting their improvement in the quality of care and, subsequently, resulting in unnecessary costs. For instance, about 30% of the total direct medical expenditures for Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians are excess costs emanating from health disparities that lead to economic losses (Artiga, 2016). Crucially, health disparities negatively impact the health of the disadvantaged groups such as the elderly populations by causing premature deaths. Furthermore, some groups possess high rates of some health conditions or experience poor health outcomes (Artiga, 2016). For example, older people have a high rate of chronic disease burden because of their age, which limits their lifespan. The situation complicates further when the aged have socioeconomic challenges as well as poor access to health care services.
Access to health care services among older people is one of the most significant challenges for which guidelines to eliminate disparities have been formalized. Artiga (2016) reiterates that the lack of health insurance adversely affects aged individuals who experience other problems because of their age, gender, race, education, and socioeconomic status. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has an action plan with a series of strategies, priorities, actions, and goals aimed at achieving a nation free of health disparities (Artiga, 2016). The HHS plan advances health equity by expanding qualitative health coverage and access. The Affordable Care Act improves healthcare coverage as well. All these aspects have demonstrated the ability to enhance the care of older people in the United States that will increase the lifespan of these people and improve their health to achieve better health outcomes.
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Moral issues in the caring of the older people are mainly guided by the ethical principles that govern the practice of healthcare professionals and other individuals who care for this population. The ethical issues guiding practice include autonomy, the principle of justice, nonmaleficence, and beneficence (Jonasson, 2009). The elderly have the freedom to reach self-decisions regarding their care and health concerns that the care providers should protect and respect. While providing care, the providers of care to the elderly should support the principle of non-maleficence by avoiding harm to the older patient. Furthermore, elderly patients should receive fair treatment.
The elderly population bears most of the burden of chronic diseases. Prince et al. (2015) assert that, globally, the leading causes of chronic disease burden impacting healthcare systems are cardiovascular conditions (30.3%), cancers or neoplasms (15.1%), chronic respiratory diseases (9.5%), and musculoskeletal and mental diseases. In the US, about 117 million people have chronic conditions and the majority are adults with multiple chronic conditions (MCC), for which 68.4% and 36.4% have at least two and four chronic ailments respectively (Sambamoorthi, Tan, & Deb, 2015). The disease burden among the elderly will probably grow because of the predicted rise in the proportion of the aging population. The burden is noticeable to a greater extent in the healthcare systems, given that there is a shortage of health professionals. Therefore, chronic diseases are a serious threat to the health of older people.
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Chronic conditions among the elderly result in increased economic costs. Increased healthcare spending occurs because MCC is associated with expanded healthcare utilization. Sambamoorthi, Tan, and Deb (2015) explain that about 70%of the elderly population with at least six chronic conditions had an emergency room visit in comparison to only 14% of the elderly without a chronic disease. In the US, the care of people with chronic conditions accounted for 86%of healthcare spending in 2010 (Gerteis et al., 2014). In the same year, about $315.4 billion was attributed to conditions of the heart and stroke with $193.4 billion being spent on direct medical care while cancer treatment resulted in the expenditure of $157 billion (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control [CDC], 2016). These diseases strain the economy because of the massive amounts of funds expended. Therefore, these conditions that affect the elderly in most cases are a huge loss to the economy since they comprise most of the healthcare spending. The productivity of people with these diseases reduces. Older people cannot work and generate income when overwhelmed with chronic conditions that impair the quality of their lives, hence shortening their lifespans (Schofield et al., 2016). As a result, they only rely on the working population, their children, and friends to offer them help by catering to the costs of the needs and healthcare. Furthermore, the government loses taxes that would have been acquired from this population with chronic conditions.
In the past, older adults and their lifespan issues in health care did not receive much recognition in nursing education. From the historical lifespan perspective, development is plastic, lifelong, and multidimensional, which is affected by interacting forces. Health disparities affect the lives of the elderly, their health, and sometimes worsen the quality of life to cause premature death. However, there are formalized guidelines in eliminating the disparities. Nurses and other care providers are supposed to offer care by following the moral aspects that guide their practice. On the other hand, the chronic disease burden immensely impacts the elderly that results in increased costs of care. Furthermore, those overwhelmed by the chronic conditions are unable to work that strains the economy.
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