Recent studies have documented the perception that older adults receive less medical care than younger people. A report published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that in a controlled study at five Boston hospitals, people older than 80 received about $12,000 less in care than did patients younger than 50. This was true even when correcting for the severity of illness and considering when older patients did not want aggressive care. There appear to be multiple reasons for this de facto rationing. Ageism— defined as discrimination against elderly people because of their age—may be a factor. Our culture places little value on people viewed as “unproductive,” and most elderly people fall into this category. Health care providers may subconsciously subscribe to the perception that valid reasons do not exist for providing the same level of treatment to older adults as younger people receive. Another reason for less care being provided to the elderly is the medical profession’s lack of knowledge about aging. Schools of medicine and nursing have only recently added courses on gerontology and the special needs of older adults. Many of these special needs include supportive services to assist with Activities of Daily Living, and most physicians are not trained to address these issues. Also, the majority of health care providers are between 25 and 60 years old, and they sometimes have little personal interest in caring for the frail elderly. Studies have shown that as many as 75% of people over 65 become confused while hospitalized, and this may result...

In 2003, two nursing home residents were admitted to a nursing home in New York with pressure sores. Both residents were given care plans that included regular skin assessment, turning and positioning.Staffing rations and quality of care are strongly related. Residents need staff for nutrition, disease management and turning and positioning to prevent pressure sores. The 1996 Institute of Medicine report, “Nursing Staff in Hospitals and Nursing Homes: Is It Adequate?” found that staffing ratios have a great effect on the nutrition of nursing home residents. Nursing assistants in understaffed nursing homes are unable to patiently feed each resident. As a result, residents are more likely to suffer from dehydration, malnutrition and associated conditions. Reports linking quality of care and staffing ratios date back to at least 1971. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has issued multiple reports calling for increased staffing ratios. New York nursing homes have particularly low levels of staff. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) study “appropriateness of Minimum Nurse Staffing Ratios in Nursing Homes: Phase II Final Report” found that 98% of nursing homes in New York have nursing levels that fall in the range where quality of care was shown to suffer. Now is the time for legislation to mandate staffing ratios on both state and federal levels. The over 65 population is increasing both nationally and in the state. A population projection by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the population of people in New York age 65 and older will increase by 60%...