Health Care System Unable to Meet Needs of Elderly Living Alone With Cognitive Issues

Authors say living alone poses substantial access-to-care barriers.

HealthDay News Living alone with cognitive impairment results in substantial barriers in access to services, according to a study published online August 18 in JAMA Network Open.

Elena Portacolone, Ph.D., from the Institute for Health & Aging at University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues conducted semistructured interviews with 76 clinicians, social workers, and home-care aides providing services to diverse patients with cognitive impairment in Michigan, California, and Texas.

Researchers identified specific factors that made serving older adults with cognitive impairment who lived alone more challenging than serving counterparts living with others. For example, those who lived alone could lack an advocate, have an incomplete medical history, or require difficult interventions. Other factors associated with increased concerns when caring for older adults living alone with cognitive impairment include isolation and a crisis-dominated health care system. Additionally, interviews revealed systematic unmet needs of older adults living alone with cognitive impairment due to a lack of essential health care and social services and policies limiting access and use to public home-care aides.

“Results raised considerable concerns about safety because the US health care system is not well equipped to address the unique needs of older adults living alone with cognitive impairment,” the authors write.

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