Thursday, November 09, 2017

Dying Slowly from Serious Health Conditions

Dying has changed. It has become a slow process rather than a sudden event, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Due to medical advances and the ability to manage chronic conditions in older adults, more people are living longer and, rather than dying from acute episodes of illness, they are dying after long periods of sickness and declining health," says Kaiser. After surveying a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 or older, Kaiser finds most Americans (74 percent) are aware of this fact.

What are the primary conditions that cause this slow death? The Kaiser survey probed a large subset of its survey sample—respondents aged 65 or older who are experiencing a serious illness that has resulted in functional limitations or who have been diagnosed with specific conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, cancer, or dementia. Also included in this subset were family members whose loved ones aged 65 or older are (or were) experiencing serious illness (prior to their death). For the seriously ill, these were the most commonly diagnosed conditions (many had more than one)...

52% had dementia
47% had heart problems/stroke
35% had diabetes
28% had mental health problems (anxiety, depression)
26% had lung problems (asthma, emphysema, COPD)
24% had cancer
14% had chronic kidney disease or kidney failure

The prolonged process of dying places great demands on the health care system. Most Americans think the system comes up short. The 52 percent majority of the public says the health care provided to older people with serious health conditions is only fair or poor. To track the evolution of attitudes and policies to cope with serious illness in late life, Kaiser plans more surveys in the future.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Serious Illness in Late Life: The Public's Views and Experience

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