Geography, race and income matter when it comes to frailty, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Women and the poor are more likely to be frail, and older people in southern states more that three times likely to be frail than those in western states. Additionally, blacks and Hispanics were nearly twice as likely to be frail than whites, researchers concluded. Continue reading
Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 5 signed California’s controversial End of Life Option Act, which permits physician-aided death for terminally ill patients. California becomes the fifth state in the nation to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to certain patients seeking to end their lives.
The law, modeled after Oregon’s law, requires two doctors to agree that the person has six months or less to live and is mentally competent.
Until Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, announced he had signed the bill it was unclear where the governor stood on the issue. He released a brief statement outlining his moral dilemma, saying, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying and in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.” Continue reading
Some low-income seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid — the dual eligibles — have the chance to age in place in their communities thanks to Medicaid’s coverage of long term services and supports (LTSS). This is especially important for older adults who are juggling multiple chronic conditions and may require help with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, or eating.
This is a population at high risk for needing expensive institutional care, and is not the preferred site of care for most people. Community-based LTSS avoids institutionalizing many older adults and is a more cost-effective solution to the growing aging population. Continue reading
A well-known, prominent California physician. Allegations of a suspicious death. Family feuds. A recovering addict and possible affair. Elder abuse. A controversial investigation by the coroner.
While it may sound like a made-for-TV movie or the latest John Grisham novel, this life-and-death true story took journalist Charles Piller more than 10 months to investigate. Not only did Piller track and verify conflicting accounts of Jerome Lackner’s final months, but he also had to somehow navigate privacy roadblocks thrown up by hospitals, providers, the hospice facility and lawyers.
In this fascinating “How I did it,” Piller describes his five-part Sacramento Bee investigative series that may raise as many questions as it answers. He explains his efforts to answer basic questions about the roles and responsibilities of caregivers, hospitals, and hospices, and how he had to unravel a web of finger pointing by family, ex-spouses, friends and health professionals.
Without seeming to take sides, how does a reporter sift through mounds of conflicting evidence to create an engaging and coherent narrative? How can you track down reluctant key players in such a saga? How do you separate fact from fiction when family members accuse caregivers of indifference, neglect – or worse? Read about how Piller did it when investigating the death of Dr. Jerome Lackner.
World experts in aging for the first time are recommending that everyone age 70 and older have routine brain health screenings.
At a recent conference of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, in St. Louis, a consensus panel examined the importance of early recognition of impaired cognitive health. They concluded that annual memory and reasoning ability evaluation by a physician or health provider is an important step toward enhancing brain health for aging populations throughout the world.
Thanks to a variety of antiretroviral medications available, especially the widely used HAART combination therapy, those who contracted HIV/AIDS from the 1990s on and have been able to maintain drug compliance, are aging longer with the disease, something that is recognized with National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day each year on Sept. 18. Continue reading
Back in May, reporters in Florida stayed busy covering the nightmarish story of a Jacksonville dentist under investigation for Medicaid fraud by the state attorney general’s office.
Howard S. Schneider, who made nearly $4 million from Medicaid over five years, according to state records, gave up his license in the wake of allegations that he had overtreated and abused children. Continue reading
Aging. We all do it; some better than others.
Why do some people keep going strong into their 90s and beyond, while others become frail, infirm, or lose cognitive ability while still a “young-old?” To report on aging is to open a Pandora’s box of related issues, from care delivery to policy matters; insurance, finance, housing, nutrition, family relationships, technology … you name it and chances are there’s a story angle on aging. Continue reading
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, after skin cancer. It is also the second leading cause of death from cancer in men. Data from the National Cancer Institute show that prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in white men and that African-American men with the disease are more likely to die from it than their white counterparts.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Some 233,000 new cases are diagnosed annually; Nearly 3 million U.S. men currently live with prostate cancer And ACS estimates that 27,540 will die from the disease in 2015. However, most men with prostate cancer — about two-thirds — are older than 65, and do not die from the disease but from other causes.
Finding and treating prostate cancer before symptoms occur may not improve health or help men live longer; nor does every diagnosis warrant intervention. In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer, concluding that the expected risks of PSA screening are greater than the potential benefit. These risks include false positives that can lead to unnecessary treatment, with serious side effects for what is typically a very slow-growing disease. Continue reading
The job of a journalist is to seek the truth and report it. To provide comprehensive and fair accounts of issues. This mantra is written into the codes of ethics of journalism organizations worldwide.
However, when government officials throw up roadblocks, refuse to answer basic questions, and rely on excuses to thwart legitimate investigations into policy, presenting the whole truth to the public is nearly impossible. When requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act are ignored, or responses delayed indefinitely, then it may be time to start filing legal challenges.
Such was the case with the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation into Medicare Advantage plans. Reporters tried for months to speak on the record with officials at CMS about the program’s financial probes and other oversight issues. CPI eventually filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get supporting documentation.
When CMS failed to respond after a year, CPI sued. Is this the only way to get government and other public organizations to open up their records? According to this tip sheet from Fred Schulte, it depends.