Americans are living longer and increasingly face serious health challenges and needs for long-term care and supports. The Catholic health care ministry advocates public policies that promote a high quality, accessible and affordable continuum of services to address the needs of older persons and those with chronic conditions.
Currently, those age 65 and older make up a higher percentage of the total American population than at any time in history, and that percentage continues to grow. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of older persons is expected to double in ten years, with a three-fold increase expected in twenty years. Persons over age 85 represent the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and are most associated with frailty and a greater need for long-term care health services.
As people in our communities live longer, the Catholic health ministry is challenged to provide compassionate services to address the physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs of persons needing continuing care. This requires a shift in the focus of the health care system, from treating episodes of acute illness to an emphasis on maintaining health and independence and treating chronic illnesses regardless of the setting where persons are receiving services. The essential challenge for policy makers and providers alike is to design a system that is adequately structured and financed to provide quality services where and when they are needed.
The Catholic health ministry is committed to ensuring the availability of continuing care throughout illness and in frailty. For more information, see Strengthening Aging and Chronic Care Services.