Category Archives: Senior Health

Dying in America is harder than it has to be, expert panel says

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It is time for conversations about death to become a part of life.

That is one of the themes of a 500-page report, titled “Dying In America,” releasedWednesday by the Institute of Medicine.

The report suggests that the first end-of-life conversation could coincide with a cherished American milestone: getting a driver’s license at 16, the first time a person weighs what it means to be an organ donor.

Follow-up conversations with a counselor, nurse or social worker should come at other points early in life, such as turning 18 or getting married.

The idea, according to the IOM, is to “help normalize the advance care planning process by starting it early, to identify a health care agent, and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event.”

The IOM plans to spend the next year holding meetings around the country to spark conversations about the report’s findings and recommendations. “The time is now for our nation to develop a modernized end-of-life care system,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the IOM. Continue reading

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For aging inmates, care outside prison walls

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By Christine Vestal
Stateline
August 12, 2014

Providing health care to an aging prison population is a large and growing cost for states. Not only do inmates develop debilitating conditions at a younger age than people who are not incarcerated, but caring for them in the harsh environment of prisons is far more expensive than it is on the outside.

Of the 2.3 million adults in state and federal prisons, about 246,000 are 50 or older, according to the National Institute of Corrections.

“In a couple of years, this is the only thing people are going to be talking about.  It’s getting worse by the minute.”

The U.S. currently spends more than $16 billion annually caring for these aging inmates, and their numbers are projected to grow dramatically in the next 15 years.

“In a couple of years,” said Donna Strugar-Fritsch, a consultant with Health Management Associates, “this is the only thing people are going to be talking about.  It’s getting worse by the minute.”

PrisonNursingHomes

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Good News for Boomers: Medicare’s Hospital Trust Fund flush until 2030

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Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, which finances about half the health program for seniors and the disabled, won’t run out of money until 2030, the program’s trustees said Monday.

That’s four years later than projected last year and 13 years later than projected the year before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

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Women’s Health – Week 46: Stroke

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

A stroke, also called a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain suddenly stops. Blocked or damaged vessels are the two major causes of stroke.

During a stroke, brain cells begin to die because oxygen and nutrients cannot reach them. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage.

Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. Immediate treatment can save a person’s life and enhance the chance for a successful recovery.

stroke

Diagram showing what happens in the brain during a hemorrhagic stroke and a ischemic stroke.

There are two kinds of stroke: Continue reading

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Does selling your home affect eligibility for assisted living?

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Q. I’m a realtor who’s listing a client’s home. She is on Social Security and is moving into assisted-living housing. Will the proceeds from the sale of her home affect her eligibility for housing, which is based on her income?

A. This is an unusual question because assisted-living facilities typically do not have special eligibility criteria for low-income residents, experts say. Continue reading

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Putting the Home in a nursing home

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Mealtime. Naptime. Bath time. Bedtime. Everything is on a schedule for residents in a traditional nursing home, leaving little flexibility for personal decision making.

But LaVrene Norton is working to change that.

Norton is founder and president of Action Pact, a national consulting firm. It specializes in helping retirement communities and nursing homes train staff and design their facilities to feel and be more like living at home.

Since beginning work on the “household model” in 1984, Norton has helped design hundreds of these communities. Continue reading

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Without federal action, states move on long-term care

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Some states are taking steps to ensure that more seniors can get the kind of long-term care they want — without becoming poor to get it.

A younger man holds an elderly man's handBy Michael Ollove
Stateline

Three years after the demise of the long-term care piece of the Affordable Care Act, some states are retooling their Medicaid programs to maximize the number of people who can get care at home and minimize the number who have to become poor to receive help.

They also are trying to save state dollars. Medicaid is a joint state-federal program, and long-term care for the elderly is putting an ever greater burden on state budgets: Total Medicaid spending for long-term services rose from $113 billion in 2007 to nearly $140 billion in 2012. Continue reading

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Washington among top-ranked states for long-term care

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A younger man's hand holding the hand of an elderly manThe state with the highest marks long-term services and support for the elderly, disabled and their caregivers was Minnesota, followed by Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska.

The lowest ranked states were: Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, and, coming in last, Kentucky, according to a new report.

The report “Raising Expectations: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities and Family Caregivers,” evaluates 26 indicators in five key dimensions that make up the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) system in each state. It was produced by  AARP, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation.

Major Findings

Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, and Wisconsin, in this order, ranked the highest across all five dimensions of the scorecard..

These eight states clearly established a level of performance at a higher tier than other states—even other states in the top quartile. But even these top states have ample room to improve.

The cost of long sterm continues to outpace affordability for middle-income families, and private long-term care insurance is not filling the gap. Continue reading

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Medicare to consider paying doctors for end-of-life planning

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End of life factBy Michael Ollove
Stateline staff Writer

The federal government may reimburse doctors for talking to Medicare patients and their families about “advance care planning,” including living wills and end-of-life treatment options — potentially rekindling one of the fiercest storms in the Affordable Care Act debate.

A similar provision was in an early draft of the federal health care law, but in 2009, former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin took to Facebook to accuse President Barack Obama of proposing “death panels” to determine who deserved life-sustaining medical care. Amid an outcry on the right, the provision was stripped from the legislation.

Now, quietly, the proposal is headed toward reconsideration — this time through a regulatory procedure rather than legislation. Continue reading

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How to shop for long-term care insurance

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One of the toughest money decisions Americans face as they age is whether to buy long-term care insurance.

Many people don’t realize that Medicare usually doesn’t cover long-term care, yet lengthy assisted-living or nursing home stays can decimate even the best-laid retirement plan.

Long-term care insurance is a complex product that requires a long-term commitment if you’re buying it. So how can you tell if this insurance is right for you? Continue reading

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Women’s Health – Week 36: Pelvic Floor Disorders

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

The term pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles and connective tissue that form a sling or hammock across the opening of a woman’s pelvis.

These muscles and tissues keep all of your pelvic organs in place so that the organs can function correctly.

A pelvic floor disorder occurs when your pelvic muscles and connective tissue in the pelvis is weak due to factors such as genetics, injury, or aging. Continue reading

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Value of routine dementia screening questioned

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Illustration of the skull and brainMichelle Andrews
KHN
MAY 06, 2014

For the millions of seniors who worry that losing their keys may mean they’re losing their minds, the health law now requires Medicare to cover a screening for cognitive impairment during an annual wellness visit.

But in a recent review of the scientific research, an influential group said there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend dementia screening for asymptomatic people over age 65.

What’s a worried senior to think? Continue reading

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Alzheimer’s support model could save states millions

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And younger man's hand holds an elderly man's handBy Lisa Gillespie

As states eye strategies to control the costs of caring for Alzheimer’s patients, a New York model is drawing interest, and findings from a study of Minnesota’s effort to replicate it shows it could lead to significant savings and improved services.  Continue reading

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Women’s health — Week 29: Fecal incontinence

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Fecal incontinence, or loss of bowel control, can be devastating. People may feel the urge to have a bowel movement and not be able to hold it until they get to a toilet or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly, sometimes while passing gas. Continue reading

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UCLA memory program offers ‘gym for your brain’

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UCLA Memory 1

Vikki Helperin, 84, dances with her husband Sidney, 88, a retired anesthesiologist, at the Longevity Center at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years ago, and the couple is hoping the memory sessions will slow the progression of the disease (Photo by Anna Gorman/KHN).

 

By Anna Gorman
KHN Staff Writer
MAR 15, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with wapo

Just as they had so many times during the past 60 years, Marianna and Albert Frankel stepped onto the dance floor. He took her hand in his, and smiling, waltzed her around the room.

“I remembered how it used to be and we could really do the waltz and he would whirl me around until I got dizzy,” said Marianna Frankel, 82, who is 10 years younger than her husband.

For just a few minutes as the music played, she didn’t think about her husband’s memory loss, the long days of silence or how much he had changed.

The Frankels and about 20 others had come to the University of California Los Angeles Medical Plaza on a breezy Tuesday afternoon to learn ways to boost the memory and help both patients and caregivers cope with what already had been lost.  Continue reading

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