Cover Story: Home Care for Aging Population

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - A new trend in senior care that's taking the country by storm.  It's more personal, more affordable and best of all.. it happens at home.

Our aging population growing by the day, and soon it could outnumber other age groups.

By the year 2017, for the first time there will be more people 65 years and older.. than kids who are five years old and younger.

That means more of our money will be going towards caring for seniors.

It's big news these days.. the cost of health care.  Part of that debate--one of the biggest concerns people have.

How will I take care of my parents... and who will take care of me?

An alternative to costly care.. the trend toward health care at home.

When Margaret Thrower, 94 in November, took a terrible fall last summer and had to have two different hip surgeries.. her days of living by herself were over.

Once out of the hospital-- where would she go?.. she knew one thing.  "My home is my home," she says.

As Pres. Obama and Congress grapple over how to provide health care to the millions of uninsured Americans.. a question as serious for families on the front lines is how to care mom and dad when they can't care for themselves.

Americans are living longer.. and there are more of us getting older.  Thanks to medical advances and the Baby Boomer generation.

In 40 years-- the number of us over 65 is expected to double.  The population over age 80 will grow 200-percent.

"What it does is really gives a person options."

Roy Goforth owns the Gaston county office of Home Instead Senior Care.. a company that employes caregivers around the world.. who can offer help in the home.

"There are just a sample of the caregivers that we have," he says.

Karen Mathis.. one of them.  She started taking care of Margaret Thrower.. sitting by her side when she was in the hospital last year.

She now fixes Miss Margaret's meals.. stays with her in her home and takes her to her many of her appointments.

It's been a godsend for Miss Margaret's family and a joy for Karen Mathis.

"I just enjoy old people. I just love being around them. They're such wonderful people to talk to and you learn a lot," says Mathis.

In-home caregiving is forecast to be the second-fastest growing job in the U.S. over the next decade.

The number of jobs available in North Carolina expected to increase more than 75-percent in 7 years.

For families.. it's cheaper than the alternative.

Says Roy Goforth of Home Instead, "A family has a choice to make.. am I going to go into assisted living? Am I going to be able to stay at home?"

An easy decision for Margaret Thrower.

How's it been having Karen Mathis come in?.. in a word.  "Wonderful.. In fact, I've been begging her to come live with me."

Surveys done by the industry indicate nine out of ten people would rather stay at home.. than be uprooted.

Costs for in-home care are paid for by the families.. not picked up by Medicare - Medicaid.

Incidentally, on a related subject.. a congresswoman has introduced a bill that would have residents in public housing be trained as health care aides.

They would act as care givers for the elderly living independently in public and subsidized housing.