Suwannee Democrat

Mayo Free Press

October 25, 2012

Lafayette healthcare administrator speaks on needs of senior citizens

Mayo — Lafayette Health Care Center Administrator Rich Wisdahl is concerned about the healthcare needs of senior citizens now and into the future, stating that 17 percent of Florida residents are senior citizens, compared to an average of 13 percent in all other states.

“According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there were 187,538 admissions to skilled nursing facilities in Florida covered by Medicare in 2010,” said Wisdahl. “In that year there were 1,385,251 persons receiving services in skilled nursing facilities in the U.S. There were 72,720 Floridians who were utilizing skilled nursing services at any one time during that year.”

Medicaid assists the medically indigent and is the largest payer for nursing facility services, providing funding for about 60 to 65 percent of all skilled nursing services in the US, Wisdahl explained.

“Our county has a lower average income level and there is an above average need for Medicaid assistance,” he said. “In our area of Florida, Medicaid funds up to 85 percent of the persons receiving care in skilled nursing facilities.”

Lafayette Health Care Center, a five star designated facility, has served the needs of over 870 people from Lafayette and surrounding counties since opening in 1997. Earlier this year they were acknowledged by US News on their list of Best Nursing Homes. They pride themselves on providing professional skilled nursing services with an emphasis on achieving high customer service.

“We want there to be a future that will allow us to provide quality healthcare services to the persons who need the services,” Wisdahl said. “Healthcare and the availability of healthcare services should be a significant part of discussions in our country. The needs of frail health individuals will not be going away. They will be increasing.”

Wisdahl said the financial pressures being experienced by most of us will not go away and will most likely increase. The need to have services available for an aging population will not go away either, he added.

In the year 2030, one out of every five people in the U.S. is projected to have reached what has historically been the age of retirement, Wisdahl went on. The fastest growing portion of the population by percentage increase is the oldest of the older population, he added.

“There were 3.5 million seniors who were living in poverty in 2010,” he continued. “In 2009, 57 percent of seniors worked at a job at some point during the year.”

Most seniors are on low, fixed incomes, Wisdahl explained, so a new health problem causing a need for a doctor visit, followed by medical tests, new medications, hospitalization or surgery would likely create huge financial burdens for close to one out of every five people in the not so distant future.

Usually with aging, additional risks for health complications occur, Wisdahl said. When addressed, most of those complications can be eliminated or controlled and a good quality of life can be restored. Healthcare complications simply due to age, he said, are more likely to be experienced by nearly one in every five people who make up our towns, our county, our state, and our country in the near future.

“Lafayette Health Care Center staff is proud to serve the needs of Lafayette and surrounding counties over the 15 years we have been in Mayo,” said Wisdahl. “The staff is proud to have received many awards and acknowledgments, including the designation as a five star facility.”

Wisdahl hopes to continue to be able to serve the skilled healthcare needs of the area into the future, including physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as outpatient therapy.

With the November election right around the corner, Wisdahl encourages thoughtful approaches by all parties, so that needed services are in place for the senior citizens of Lafayette County, of Florida, and the entire country.

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