Thursday, May 23, 2013
More Doctors Needed For Growing Senior Population
Older Alaskans are expected to face many challenges as they retire, including lack of primary care physicians across the state.
A new report released by the Alaska Commission on Aging shows the medical field lagging behind a growing number of baby boomers expected to retire.
The commission gathered information and data on older Alaskans and their well-being from 2010, and found the number of seniors in Alaska is increasing by 7 percent annually across the state.
“For some reason Alaska and Florida has the highest percentage of baby boomers in the country, and those boomers are not likely to leave,” said AARP Director, Patrick Luby. “They are much more likely to stay after retirement.”
The report also found that the state is not meeting the demand of our senior population, and lacks sufficient primary care physicians. Officials say because there is a lack of doctors, elderly patients are left with limited options.
It’s a reality Dawnia Clements, 76, had to face last year when her doctor told her he would no longer see Medicare patients. Clements said that when she got sick, she was forced to go to the emergency room.
“When you get sick, you don’t want to go to the emergency room with what you think could be something small, because it costs a fortune,” she said.
But it’s not the only challenge seniors will face in the near future, along with rising medical costs; officials say suicide rates among the elderly is also increasing, with few willing to address the issue because of limited resources available. According to the report older Alaskans have 45 percent higher suicide rates than the national average.
“Its quite serious in Alaska, partly because of the loneliness,” said Clements.” If people don’t have family support and very few friends, if they don’t get out and about, and transportation gets cut, they become depressed.”
It’s a grim reality officials say we could all potentially face, and need to be prepared for.
Retired seniors contribute at least $1.7 billion annually to Alaska’s healthcare industry, and through their retirement spending, making them the state’s top economic sector.