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Ageing and Health
This month's InsideHealth&Care discussed the problems associated with an ageing population as the number of people aged 65+ is set to increase dramatically
insideHealth magazine issue 9, August 2013
From 2010 to 2030 there is expected to be a 50% increase in people aged 65 and over. Health experts across the globe have voiced their concerns about the impact our ageing population will have on health and social services.
As people age, they are more prone to conditions such as cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes and dementia; so an ageing population will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of people with these conditions.
Another consequence is an increase in people dying at an older age. In 2010, 1.4 million people were aged 85 or over and deaths in this group made up 36% of all deaths. By 2035, there will 3.5 million people aged 85 or over, and the over-85s will represent half of all deaths in the UK.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said that our ever increasing life expectancy is cause for "celebration", but as the over 85 demographic becomes the fastest growing part of the population, the country needs to adapt to "our rapidly ageing society".
Why will the ageing population increase healthcare costs?
• The annual costs of health and social care are significantly greater for older people
• The number of elective and non-elective hospital admissions for older people has increased more rapidly than the growth in absolute numbers
• Current projections suggest that a high proportion of older people in the future will be living on their own and are therefore likely to require formal care
• The number of older people with care needs is expected to rise by more than 60% in the next 20 years.
UK ‘not ready' for ageing
The House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change has recently warned that the Government is ‘woefully underprepared' for the rapidly ageing population. The report highlights that half as many extra people will be living with three or more long-term conditions in England by 2018, compared to 2008, and called for a 10 year spending deal for the NHS and social care to allow services to be properly planned.
Elderly patients to have named clinician
It has recently been announced that elderly patients with complex care needs will have a named clinician responsible for their care when they leave hospital. The move is intended to help improve integration between hospital and community care, by giving people someone to contact if they have a question about their treatment. The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said the scheme would be in place from April 2014.
Impact on hospice care
As the population ages, the number of people requiring hospice care will also increase, and hospices will need to care for people over a longer period. A recent report by the Cicely Saunders Institute has looked at preferences for place of care and place of death, and highlights gaps in the evidence such as uncertainty about which models of hospice care work best. Current and future needs for hospice care looks at the implications of the changes in demographics over the next decade.
• Half of those born after 2007 can expect to live to over 100
• England and Wales has the fifth highest number of over 90s in the world
• Japan has the largest aged population, followed by Sweden and Italy
• India has the lowest number of very old residents with less than 200
Resource focus: Falls prevention
Over 280,000 patient falls are reported from hospitals and mental health units annually, costing approximately £15 million a year. Most people who fall in hospital are aged over 75 years and have multiple long term and acute illnesses. There are various resources available to healthcare staff aimed at helping them prevent and deal with falls in hospital:
NICE clinical guidance
The assessment and prevention of falls in older people is the latest guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, published in June 2013. It offers evidence-based advice on preventing falls in older people. It advises healthcare staff to consider assessment and intervention for all patients who are at risk of falling in hospital, and to provide information and support to patients and their families or carers.
FallSafe is quality improvement project focused on prevention and management of falls in clinical hospital wards. The project is led by the Royal College of Physicians and consists of care bundles to reduce inpatient falls. The elements address some of the underlying reasons for falls, such as muscle weakness, cardiovascular problems, dementia, delirium and medication.
Age UK has produced a guide for older people on ‘Staying steady' and preventing falls. It contains information on improving strength and balance, and is a useful resource for those who work with older people. It contains ‘Top tips' on preventing falls, that include exercising regularly, checking hearing and sight, looking after feet, and increasing vitamin D and calcium.
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