Category Archives: Aging

More aging boomers at risk of becoming elder orphans

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Maria Torroella Carney

Maria Torroella Carney

Are you familiar with the term “elder orphan?” That’s how one researcher describes a coming wave of childless and unmarried baby boomers and seniors who are aging alone and unsupported, with no known family member or designated surrogate to act on their behalf.

Nearly one-quarter of Americans over age 65 are already part of or are at risk to join this vulnerable group. With no family member available to check up on them, elder orphans require more awareness and advocacy to ensure their needs are met, said Maria Torroella Carney, M.D., chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York. She presented results of a case study and literature review on the topic on May 15 during the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society in suburban District of Columbia. Continue reading

Seniors struggle to access adequate dental care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Maggie Osterberg via Flickr

Photo: Maggie Osterberg via Flickr

Many Americans lose their private dental benefits when they retire.

But Medicare, the nation’s health insurance program for seniors, does not cover routine dental procedures.

The situation leaves millions of elders, living on fixed incomes, making hard choices about when to seek care – and, as in Thelma Chappell’s case, postponing a dental visit until the pain gets too bad to ignore. Continue reading

Report provides trove of story ideas, data on aging

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: U.S. National Archives via Flickr

Photo: U.S. National Archives via Flickr

May is Older Americans Month, which coincides with the Administration for Community Living’s annual profile of Americans over age 65. Their most recent report, Profile of Older Americans, 2014, tracks trends in aging from 2003 through 2013.

Not only is the data itself interesting – did you know nearly 70,000 Americans were over age 100 in 2013? – but the report provides a wealth of angles reporters can localize to advance discussion of aging issues in their community. Continue reading

Family caregivers face increasing stress, health issues #ahcj15

Ansley Stewart

About Ansley Stewart

Ansley Stewart (@ansleyestewart) is a student at the University of Georgia Graduate School of Journalism. She attended Health Journalism 2015 as a 2015 AHCJ-Academic Health Journalism Fellow.

Family caregivers of older adults are increasingly experiencing stress-related effects of caring for loved ones and may be putting their own health at risk, according to aging and policy experts on the Health Journalism 2015 panel, “Challenges Facing America’s Family Caregivers.” Experts cautioned that a widening “care gap” means fewer available family caregivers to meet future needs.

Most care for older adults is not provided by Medicare or Medicaid-reimbursed services; rather it is done through an informal network of family and friends – usually an adult daughter or daughter-in-law between 45 and 64. Lynn Friss Feinberg, M.S.W., senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute, said the “care gap,” or Caregiver Support Ratio, of potential family caregivers for each person over age 80 is a serious concern.

Those age 80 and above are most likely to need long-term services and supports. In 2010, there were more than seven potential caregivers for every person over 80; in 2030, the ratio is expected to drop to 4 to 1, and will decline to 3 to 1 by 2050. Feinberg pointed to family size and greater geographic diversity as the primary reasons. Continue reading

Report, webinar look at public beliefs about aging vs. what experts know

Eileen Beal

About Eileen Beal

Eileen Beal, M.A., has been covering health care and aging since the late 1990s. She's written several health-related books. including "Age Well!" with geriatrician Robert Palmer, and her work has appeared in Aging Today, Arthritis Today,WebMD and other publications. She leads AHCJ's Cleveland chapter.

I lucked out when I attended an American Society on Aging Conference in the late 1990s and met the person who has been (for lack of a better way of putting it) my aging mentor, Paul Kleyman. Back then, he was ASA’s publications guy: today he leads Ethnic Elders Newsbeat at New America Media.

As I niched myself into the geriverse – writing about diabetic retinopathy, what is and isn’t Alzheimer’s, end-of-life care, long-term care planning, senior fraud, family caregiving and more, I began to get a handle on how interconnected everything aging is.

And I realized that most people don’t know much about aging, including what “normal” aging is. Continue reading

Why is it so hard to discuss end-of life-care? #ahcj15

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A provocative examination of end-of-life care brought this question into sharp focus for journalists attending Health Journalism 2015. Paul Kleyman, who moderated a panel on the topic, noted that essential end-of-life elements first reported on 30 years ago – such as affordability and death with dignity – are still relevant and have intensified.

“Lately, there has been lots of attention around the “right-to-die” movement. Just as important as that is exploring the right to quality of life until the end,” Kleyman, director of the Ethnic Elders Newsbeat at New America Media, said at the April 24 session.

V.J. Periyakoil

V.J. Periyakoil

V.J. Periyakoil, M.D., who is director of palliative care education and training at Stanford University School of Medicine, specializes in multicultural palliative care and in helping families and physicians understand the related cultural components. “Providing good end-of-life medical care is not enough,” she said. “Providers must become more skilled at having effective end-of-life conversations.” Continue reading

Change to Medicare will shift physicians into value-based payment

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law on Thursday afternoon, in what experts say could be the most significant change in Medicare’s 50-year history.

The law, part of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that Congress had used to set physician payment rates under Medicare, shifts the 50-year-old program away from a fee-for-service model and moves physicians into value-based payment.

Earlier this week the U.S. Senate passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a vote of 92 to 8. Last month, the House passed its version of the bill by 392-37. Continue reading

Why reporters should check the data in a ‘brief’

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A recent data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported a 23 percent increase in the age-adjusted hypertension-related death rate from 2000 to 2013. In that same period, the rate for all other causes of death combined decreased 21 percent. The report, “Hypertension-related Mortality in the United States, 2000–2013” is part of a series from the Centers for Disease Control on myriad health issues, morbidity and mortality.

Photo: Morgan via Flickr

Photo: Morgan via Flickr

Such reports, while an interesting starting point for a story, can easily be taken out of context and mislead your audience. That’s why building a stable of reliable health care experts to whom you can show the data and quote in your story is important.

The authors of the NCHS brief defined hypertension-related mortality as “any mention of hypertension on the death certificate or as the underlying cause of death.” Continue reading

IOM: Take action to improve cognitive health in non-AD older adults

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A new report from the Institute of Medicine identifies the three key actions people can take to help maintain optimal cognitive function as they age. Physical activity, reducing and managing cardiovascular disease risk, and regularly reviewing medications and their side effects with their clinicians top the list of recommendations to maintain cognitive health.

Photo: Maury Landsman via Flickr

Photo: Maury Landsman via Flickr

“Changes in mental functions and capabilities are a part of aging and occur with everyone,” committee chair Dan G. Blazer, M.D. Ph.D., the J.P. Gibbons professor of psychiatry emeritus at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in a statement. “The extent and nature of these changes vary widely and are gradual, and aging can have both positive and negative effects on cognition. Wisdom and knowledge can increase with age, while memory and attention can decline.”

The study focused on the public health dimensions of cognitive aging as separate from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It described decline in cognition is a public health issue that goes beyond memory lapses and one that can have significant impacts on independent living and healthy aging. Continue reading

Experts: Care coordination, medical homes key to tackling global aging issues

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: shaindlin via Flickr

Photo: shaindlin via Flickr

An aging population isn’t just a challenge for providers and policymakers in the U.S. – it’s an issue most nations contend with. Experts participating in last week’s webinar from The Commonwealth Fund, Health and Health Care Among Older Adults in 11 Countries, confirm that finding the right balance between clinical and social services, cost-effectiveness and promoting aging in place is tricky, no matter what health system is in place.

The webinar featured key findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s latest International Health Policy Survey, which examined consumer opinions of health systems and care delivery. Experts from France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. provided perspective on the issues. This previous blog post summarizes survey results. Continue reading