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ISSUE BRIEF: Nearly Half of Community-Based Elders Have Care Needs

October 1, 2015

Nearly half of elders living in their communities require assistance with at least one daily task related to self-care, mobility, and/or household activities, reports a September issue brief (pdf) published by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

The brief, which uses data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, shows that 36 percent of community-based elders need help with at least one self-care or mobility need, while 33 percent need assistance performing at least one household task.

The most common household task for which elders need assistance is shopping, at 22 percent.

Meanwhile, the self-care/mobility task that community-based elders most need assistance with is getting out of bed (19 percent).

The brief further reports that elders aged 85 and older are far more likely to have a long-term services and supports need (74 percent) than elders aged 65-74 (37 percent) and aged 75-84 (51 percent).

Across age groups, elders who are “dual eligible” — meaning they qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare — are much more likely to need assistance with a task than both low-income and higher-income elders who do not have Medicaid.

However, the number of low-income elders without Medicaid who have long-term care needs is significant, the authors write, and warrants Medicaid expansion in the 21 states that have thus far not chosen to expand coverage.

“Providing LTSS to meet this population’s needs may be cost-effective over the long-term as unmet needs may worsen and require more costly services to address in the future,” they write.

Expanding Medicaid would also help hundreds of thousands of direct-care workers access health coverage, a July PHI report found.

— by Matthew Ozga

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