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Posts from November, 2013

Mature Marketing, Caring for the Rural Elderly

Nov 12

Aging has never been easy, but aging in rural America is particularly challenging. According to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, seniors in rural areas together with their healthcare providers and family caregivers face greater challenges than their urban counterparts.

In addition to the usual challenges of chronic disease and functional decline, the rural elderly are geographically isolated. They have to travel long distances to seek care, made more difficult by the fact that many can no longer drive and there is a lack of available or reliable public transportation. These issues contribute to their tendency to delay seeking care, which aggravates health problems and leads to more complicated, lengthy and expensive interventions when they finally do receive medical attention. Rural primary care physicians and rural hospitals are struggling to meet the demand.

Fear of medical expense is another deterrent. The elderly in the rurals are more likely to be poor. Lower lifetime earnings result in lower Social Security benefits, which are less likely to be supplemented by private pensions or part-time work. In a study of elderly patients with osteoarthritis, fear of the cost of care was often greater than their concern for the severity of their physical symptoms.

Because long-term care agencies, adult day care and assisted living are more plentiful in cities, family caregivers in the rural areas spend almost 20% more time providing care. With limited access to formal long-term care services, these caregivers often shoulder the responsibility of providing transportation, meals, grocery shopping and hands-on care without support.

Telemedicine is increasingly being considered as a means to increase access to care, lower medical costs and overcome the isolation of the rural elderly and their caregivers. Future editions of this blog will cover the issues, opportunities and latest developments in the fields of telehealth and telemedicine.  We invite you to join the discussion.