According to the Administration on Aging, there are wide disparities in the economic and physical welfare of older adults. Current census data shows that more than 5.8 million older adults in the United States live at or below the poverty level, and older adults are at highest risk for complicated chronic health issues (Tabloski, 2020). The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that nearly one-fourth of Alabama residents are age 60 and older, and Alabama’s elderly population is expected to increase by 82.4 percent by 2040 with the largest growth expected to occur in Shelby County. (https://www.alabampublichealth.gov/healthrankings/geriatrics.html).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that in the state of Alabama 831,907 older adults are enrolled in Medicare. An additional 205,633 older adults are dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid due to low income status (U.S.Department, 2007). Therefore, serving as healthcare advocates for elderly widows is fundamental in helping them achieve equitable high-quality care, desirable health outcomes and a good quality of life. Abiding Hearts Ministry was established to bring care to older widows who are vulnerable, neglected, and without adequate access to needed care because of physical and social barriers.
Health equity means that everyone has access to high-quality care. “The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines quality health care as doing the right thing, for the right patient, at the right time, in the right way to achieve the best possible results” (National Academies, 2021). Social determinants of health have a significant effect on healthcare access and outcomes, and there is growing evidence of inequities in healthcare specifically in the older adult population. This is primarily due to an inability to access quality care. Health inequity among older adults is deeply rooted in complex social determinants of health such as economic instability, lack of transportation, lack of family support, and food instability (National Academies, 2021). In the last blog post we shared that Alabama has consistently allocated fewer funds toward home and community based health services than other states. Subsequently, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) scorecard report has ranked Alabama as one of the lowest five states. The scorecard analyzes state performances in providing high-quality systems of care for older adults. According to the AARP, “at the current national rate of change,” it will take 36 years for the five lowest ranked states to reach the same level of quality achieved by the top five ranked states in providing care for older adults.
Elderly widows have limited functional capacity as a result of normal aging processes, and unfortunately the majority of them are also burdened with multiple chronic conditions and unmet needs. The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) reports a projected shortage of 25,000 physicians by the year 2025. Currently, there is only 1 Geriatrician for every 7,242 geriatric patients. Less than 18% of registered nurses work outside of the acute care hospital setting, and less than 1% of registered nurses specialize in Gerontology. The median income for older adults in the United States is $20,790 and social security constitutes 90% or more of their total income. Clearly, the elderly widows living in our communities need help, love and support on multiple levels. Many of their needs fall outside of or exceed what traditional insurance coverage will provide. They need ongoing chronic care management, advocacy and assistance. We invite you to pray for us and ask the Lord if He would enable you to partner with us by financially supporting Abiding Hearts Widows Ministry and/or volunteering your time and skills.