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The projected demands from an increasing elderly population on the nation’s healthcare system along with the accessibility and advancement of life-extending technology, has society begging the question of how we will meet the future demands of healthcare. According to Garza (2016), as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) “the number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050,” (Garza, 2016, para. 1). This leaves society confronted with the issue of determining how to properly allocate the nations already limited healthcare resources to this future elderly population and still uphold appropriate ethical standards.
Craig (2010), states that from an ethical standpoint, society must incorporate rights, merit, need, and priority of healthcare when assisting the geriatric population and appropriately allocating healthcare resources. Every person should have the right to equal access to healthcare, but in a system with already limited resources success rate of a necessary treatment should be evaluated and utilized based on what will produce the most effective outcomes, this is known as merit. Take for instance end-of-life dilemmas, as nurses we are bound by our ANA Code of Ethics and must respect our patient’s personal beliefs and values, but it is also the nurse’s responsibility to maintain educated and informed choices for both the patient and patient’s family. Ultimately, when planning for this growing population and determining such dilemmas as end-of-life care, it is imperative to ensure we are not only adding years to life, but life to years. Although, according to Crippen & Barnato (2011), healthcare costs are driven by the increases in managing chronic disease in this population and not necessarily with end-of-life spending. According to Garza (2016), by 2030, 60% of the generation will be managing more than one chronic condition. As frontline healthcare providers it is imperative to teach and promote preventative measures to chronic and costly diseases to help drive down the financial burden on healthcare systems in the long run.
There will be a plethora of ethical challenges related to the preparation for the establishment of such a health care. One challenge will in determining the value of health. Who measures what is deemed healthy; the individual, the family, or the doctor? Will this determination of health discriminate against the elderly or those individuals with disabilities? Will the healthcare system discriminate against those who made bad lifestyle choices (i.e., smoking, drinking, obesity) to those with a certain genetic predisposition for a disorder? When we are sorting out all these ethical challenges, it is important to consider the economic impact on future generations of taxpayers if the policy is not changed. According to Crippen (2011), increased government spending on the elderly population is taking away from educational programs for the youth population and could also lead to an increase in chronic health issues at younger ages because there are no funds to provide them healthcare.
Barnett, J. E., & Quenzel, A. P. (2017). Innovating to meet the needs of our aging population. Practice Innovations, 2(3), 136-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pri0000049
Craig, H. D. (2010). Caring enough to provide healthcare: An organizational framework for the ethical delivery of healthcare among aging patients. International Journal for Human Caring, 14(4), 27–30. Retrieved from https://eds-a-ebscohost com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=0d6ab6aa-739e-4f50ab6c-4b5245f91690%40sdc-v-sessmgr01
Crippen, D., & Barnato, A. E. (2011). The ethical implications of health spending: Death and other expensive conditions. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 39(2), 121–129. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-720X.2011.00582.x
Garza, A. (2016, January 19). The aging population: The increasing effects on health care. Pharmacy Times. Retrieved from https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2016/january2016/the-aging-population-the-increasing-effects-on-health-care
Hayutin, A.M., Dietz, M., Mitchell, L. (2010). New realities of an older America. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nasuad.org/sites/nasuad/files/hcbs/files/199/9941/New_Realities_of_an_Oldr_America.pdf