The health problems of the elderly differ from those of younger persons both in degree and in kind.
The young and the middle-aged tend to suffer from acute problems, such as infectious diseases, and traumas, such as broken bones. Women also have medical needs associated with childbirth.
On the other hand, the elderly, while experiencing some acute problems, primarily suffer from chronic, degenerative diseases.
In the past, acute, life-threatening traumas and diseases caused lengthy and costly hospitalizations.
In recent years, the advancements of science have largely controlled infectious diseases in the U.S., and now medical procedures successfully treat many acute health problems.
This has resulted in steadily increasing life expectancy and shorter hospital stays for acute conditions.
Because the elderly are living longer due to health care improvements the type of health problems that now plague them are chronic, i.e., of long duration, as with Alzheimer’s disease, or of frequent recurrence, as with crippling arthritic episodes.
This has resulted in increasing need and demand for long- term care services.
Acute vs. Chronic Care
- Sharp or severe in effect: intense.
- Brief and severe
- Having long had a disease, habit, weakness, or the like: a chronic invalid.
- Having long duration
These differences have serious implications for the lifestyle and care needs of older persons.
Acute problems generally can be cured in a short period of time, after which the afflicted individual can return to the lifestyle enjoyed prior to the episode. Treatment for most acute health problems is financed by public and private insurance.
Chronic diseases, however, usually cannot be cured, and thus are likely to continue to affect a person until his or her death. Treatment for chronic problems, which typically involves care rather than cure, usually is not reimbursed by private insurance or Medicare.
Chronic disease also may lead to some degree of disability, which is far more prevalent among the elderly than among younger persons.
Acute (Health Care)
Chronic Care (LTC)
|Medically based injury or sickness||Physical-based (ADLS) or Mental-based (cognitive impairment)|
|Short Term||Long-Term (90 plus days)|
|Restorative in nature||Maintenance and/or supportive in nature|
|Cured in a short period of time||Usually cannot be cured|
|Individual can usually return to previous lifestyle (becomes independent)||Likely to affect individual until death (becomes dependent)|
|Paid for by public and private insurance||Not reimbursed by private insurance or Medicare|