It won’t surprise you to know that, with there being more people on the planet than ever before, there are more old people as well. In fact, the number of people living over the age of 65 has gone up exponentially in the last century, meaning that more and more companion care services are needed. Think of it this way: a hundred years ago, one in every 25 people you met on the street would be a senior. The number today is one in eight!
This trend of an aging population isn’t going to stop anytime soon, thanks to the many factors that we’re going to take a look at in this blog today. Lives are being extended, there’s no doubt about that. While a person a hundred years ago might have lived to see 60, the average life expectancy today is closer to 80. Let’s take a look at why elder care services continue to grow.
Vaccines Prevent Incredibly Deadly Diseases
Vaccines are perhaps the most amazing and beneficial scientific discovery in modern history. Smallpox alone killed 300,000,000 people, and the eradication of the disease has saved tens of millions more. Millions are alive and healthier because of the polio vaccine because the disease would lead to muscle failure and killed people by taking away their ability to breathe. Vaccines today save millions more from deadly diseases such as whooping cough, measles, and the flu. Thanks to vaccines, some diseases have been completely obliterated, with others being on the brink of eradication.
Everyone who didn’t die from one of the diseases prevented from vaccines lived to fight another day. First the smallpox vaccine saved a person from smallpox, then the tetanus vaccine saved their lives years later when they cut their foot and took a walk in the grass (tetanus isn’t caused by rust, by the way). With so many deadly or life-shortening diseases being diminished by vaccines, more people are living to see old age.
Antibiotics Save People’s Lives
While vaccines prevent viruses from taking hold of the body, antibiotics are there to kill bacteria. Vaccines are used preventatively, while antibiotics are most often prescribed after the bacteria are introduced. Some of the most common uses for antibiotics include strep throat, bacterial meningitis, gonorrhea, diphtheria, and tuberculosis.
Antibiotics are also used when someone gets a wound that gets infected. In the pre-antibiotic age, surviving a wound in war often meant that you might succumb to an even more painful death because of bacteria picked up on the battlefield or, more likely, in the hospital. Millions of people have been saved thanks to antibiotic use around the world, lengthening the life expectancy and eventually leading to the need for more in-home care.
Hygiene Can’t Be Overemphasized
Before the modern germ theory of disease, doctors wouldn’t wash their hands. Before the seemingly crazy idea of “stuff too small for us to see is making us sick,” surgeons would head directly from examining a dead person in the morgue to delivering a baby fifteen minutes later (leading to an insanely high mortality rate for mothers and children). Field surgeons would amputate an arm with a saw, and if you were lucky they’d wipe it off before they moved on to remove your arm. This lack of hygiene severely reduced the population’s life expectancy.
It’s certainly not just hospitals that were to blame for infectious outbreaks, though. Food sanitation and refrigeration also reduced the number of deaths due to foodborne illnesses. Still, nothing has helped more than the improvement in water quality. Before people knew of the importance of water cleanliness, water was clean if you looked at it and didn’t see anything in it. Wells were dug near latrines, rivers were polluted upstream to the detriment of anyone drinking downstream. Water treatment helped to reduce the number of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.
We Have More Information
We have more information than ever before thanks to medical discoveries. Studies linking cigarette smoke to lung cancer irrefutably show that you’re exponentially more likely to get cancer if you smoke. Other studies have linked certain diets to increased risk of heart disease. We now know just how important it is to wear sunscreen.
While inhaling smoke into your lungs is easy to understand when it comes to cause and effect, there are more hidden habits and maladies that have only been connected because of the gathering of information from across medical studies. This information, sometimes called big data, could only find the connections with the help of huge computers trying to find correlations and causations. Such electronically-found connections are going to be even more important in tomorrow’s medicine.
Early Diagnosis With Imaging
Ever since Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered x rays back in 1895, people have been looking inside the body and discovering better and better ways to perform diagnostic imaging. Today there are standard x-rays, ultrasounds, DEXA, CT scans, MRIs, and many other forms of medical imaging. Just like x-ray technology, all of these forms of assistance have gotten better over the years, reducing the amount of ionizing radiation needed and creating more crisp images.
Medical imaging has helped increased life expectancies due to earlier detection of life-threatening diseases and tumors. While a person once might have lived with a tumor or cancer for years before knowing anything was wrong, medical imaging today can tell a surgeon exactly where to cut in order to help them live longer. And as they live longer, they might just need the help of a home health agency.
People have known about genes for a hundred and fifty years, but in most cases it came down to “your brother had cancer, you might get it too.” Today we’re infinitely more informed than we were then, as we’re able to tell people what they need to watch out for. Did the brother get skin cancer because he was genetically predisposed to it, or because he worked outside all day? Today science can identify certain predispositions for diseases and then advise people on how they might be able to avoid or lessen the effects.
More and more people are in need of home healthcare and companion care than ever before, and the reasons we mentioned above are a huge reason why people are living longer. But an increase in population has also served to increase the number of seniors in the United States. We’ll take a look at that next time.
In the meantime, contact Specialized Nursing Services when you’re in need of the best senior home care around!