A clear majority of Florida adults are deeply concerned about their ability to help aging parents face the increasing challenges of age-related decline, according to a newly released statewide poll. Leaders of Florida’s long term care profession said the findings underscore the need for Florida’s next governor to ensure that a range of service options is in place to help the state’s large and growing aging population.
The survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research was commissioned by the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) in conjunction with the organization’s 60th anniversary. FHCA also launched a new online resource – www.ElderCareFlorida.com – to assist adults and their aging parents as they explore long term care options. At the same time, the Association released a 60 Years of Caring report highlighting improvements in long term care in Florida over the past six decades.
“As Florida begins to feel the impact of aging Baby Boomers, it’s important we identify the needs and concerns of those who will be responsible for their care,” said Joe Mitchell, president of FHCA. “Many adult Floridians will soon be taking on greater responsibilities for their parents’ care. Fortunately, Florida is a national leader in providing quality care for the elderly, with a wide range of care options that are among the best anywhere.”
Almost one in three Florida skilled nursing facilities were included in U.S. News & World Report’s recent “Best in Nursing Homes” list. In other surveys, 91 percent of Florida skilled nursing facility residents describe their overall satisfaction level as “excellent” or “good,” and the same percentage say they would recommend their long term care facility to others.
The Mason-Dixon poll shows clearly that as they consider the potential challenges of aging parents and an aging population, most Floridians are nervous about their ability to help meet parents’ needs, apprehensive about the strain those needs might place on their own lives and families, and anxious for Florida to provide enough options as their parents advance in age.
According to the poll:
• Almost three out of five adults (58 percent) say they are concerned about their ability to care for the physical health of an aging parent.
• More than two-thirds (67 percent) are concerned about their ability to care for the diminishing mental capabilities of an aging parent.
• Almost half (48 percent) are concerned that the needs of a parent will place a financial strain in their own lives.
• More than two-thirds (67 percent) are concerned that their parents’ needs will create an emotional strain in their own lives.
• Only about one-third are very confident of their ability to personally meet the needs of an aging parent, whether that parent remained in his or her own home (33 percent) or moved into the adult child’s home (35 percent).
“These survey results provide our first detailed look at the thinking of Floridians who will soon be faced with the challenge of caring for aging parents,” said Tom Groesbeck, a member of the FHCA Board of Directors. “By understanding their concerns, we can help shape care options that best meet the needs of aging Floridians for years to come.”
To assist Floridians as they consider long term care options, FHCA today launched a new “Elder Care in Florida” website. The site offers details of various care options available to aging Floridians, as well as information for dealing with such issues of aging as memory loss, depression and falls. The site also provides a forum for Floridians to share their experiences with others who may be contemplating the same choices.
The poll offers insights into the attitudes of the so-called “sandwich” generation, working-age adults who have children of their own but also must help with the care of their own parents. The survey found that more than one in three adult Floridians (36 percent) who have family members in assisted living also have children under the age of 18, creating added stress to deal with two generations that require additional time and care to meet their needs.
The survey results also indicate that an overwhelming majority of Floridians (93 percent) consider it important for Florida to have a strong system of assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities (also referred to as nursing homes) to meet the state’s growing long term care demands. Additionally, 71 percent said they would be very supportive if a parent who needs daily medical and living care makes the decision to live in a skilled nursing or assisted living community.
Florida has the highest median age in the nation, with more than one in five Floridians over the age of 65. This large senior population creates numerous important challenges for Florida, particularly when coupled with such concerns as a shortage of geriatric specialists; increasing rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias; limited transportation options for aging Floridians; and the rise of two-career families leaving no one home to care for needy loved ones.
“Those of us in the long term care profession are grateful for the support provided for Florida’s elders over the years by governors and legislators,” said Emmett Read, FHCA executive director. “As seniors grow to be one-fourth of our state’s population, it will be especially important for our next leaders to recognize the challenges and meet the needs of this large and important group of individuals.”