Pennsylvania's senior citizens often face tough choices when it comes to paying for their meals and medications, according to figures released Tuesday in the annual Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, conducted by nonprofit Public Health Management Corporation's Center for Data Innovation.
The data, which was released in advance of National Senior Citizens Day on Aug. 21, found thousands of older adults in the region last year either skipped a meal or left a prescription unfilled due to budgetary constraints, underscoring the difficult decisions older adults are often forced to make when balancing basic needs.
PHMC officials in a release noted poor nutrition among older adults can aggravate existing medical conditions and disabilities, decrease immune system function and lead to the increased need for yet more medical attention, resulting in a vicious cycle in which those who forego food for prescriptions can actually end up facing even higher health care costs.
Similarly, failing to take medications as prescribed, especially when a patient has a chronic health condition, can increase the risk for negative and potentially lethal health consequences.
Advocates pointed to several barriers to medication adherence among the elderly, among them a lack of education about available benefits to help with food costs, prescription insurance coverage, Social Security income, affordable housing and personal financial skills.
10,000 households in Southeastern Pennsylvania were surveyed by the PHMC.
112,500 older adults reported either skipping a meal or leaving a prescription unfilled last year due to budgetary constraints.
20,900 adults reported both cutting a meal and not filling a prescription due to budget limitations.
66.8% of older adults who reported both cutting a meal and not filling a prescription have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
49.9% of older adults who reported both cutting a meal and not filling a prescription have been diagnosed with diabetes.