Institutions nationwide are piloting new ways to take care of patients’ needs beyond the hospital bed. That task took on added urgency when Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee released the results of their investigation into social networks among the elderly earlier this year. The analysis: social networks are declining and America is going to pay for it – probably in higher healthcare costs.
“[A]n increasingly inadequate level of informal care . . . would necessitate a greater amount of institutional care outside the home and away from loved ones, reducing, for many, their quality of life,” the Committee wrote. “[I]nstitutional care often entails burdensome expenses,” including individuals spending down their assets and the public paying for costly nursing home care.
For many seniors, informal networks of friends and family help them perform household chores, organize their finances, and navigate their medical appointments. These informal care networks are vital to addressing, as the CDC put it, “conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks,” or “social determinants of health.” According to scholars at Yale Law School’s Solomon Center, “25 percent of individual health is determined by genetics, medical care, and health behaviors, while 75 percent of health is determined by social and environmental factors.”