The generous spirit of dental hygienists surfaces in areas where many people are reluctant to tread. Nursing homes certainly evoke an uneasy feeling in people who are saddened to witness the change from self-reliance change into dependent living among friends and relatives. As Cathy Alty and Kathy Olson write on page 26, hygienists play a direct role in improving the quality of life among residents in extended care facilities. The article focuses on how the health care workers in the facilities depend on outside instruction on oral hygiene. With these few paragraphs here, I think it`s important to understand some general facts about residency trends among the geriatric and special needs population.
According to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), for example, 1.6 million workers tend to the needs of the dependent in 21,000 nursing homes and personal care facilities. The number is projected to swell to 2.4 million workers by 2005 as the Baby Boomers begin to approach their sixties. So these numbers alone indicate why it remains important for dentistry to share its knowledge with colleagues in the continuing care field.
The average daily charge to a nursing home patient is about $107. The figure staggers me since I`m able to provide daily care for three children for much less than that. In addition, some politicians kick Medicare and Medicaid programs around for sport, illustrating either wasteful spending or unfair tax burdens. The government currently pays for about 60 percent of nursing home costs. If the pressure continues to mount, it`s a safe bet that employees at extended care facilities will become even more beleaguered.
Common sense also dictates that home care agencies and other alternative retirement communities will become a favored option among the elderly who need less monitoring than the typical nursing home patient. In 1995, the National Association for Home Care reported 17,561 home-care agencies in the United States. Patients typically pay between $49 and $75 per visit by a home care professional. The AAHSA defines these residents as usually needing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), which would include oral hygiene. So the more independent home-bound resident may not necessarily be waiting for medical attention. The AAHSA also notes that 92 percent of nursing home residents experience limitations in bathing.
Who are these caregivers administering aid to? The AAHSA estimates 65-year-olds have a 43 percent chance of entering a nursing home at some point in their life. In addition, 52 percent of elderly women and 33 percent of elderly men will use an extended care facility`s services before they die.
So a very large group of workers (who bear some responsibility for the health of an even larger group of elderly men and women) very likely remember only what their personal hygienist muttered at the last dental appointment, whenever that was. By teaching the workers at your local extended care facility, your generosity trickles down to the residents in extended care facilities. The prayer asking that unnecessary dental woes elude these residents will be answered.