Category Archives: Aging

Medicare ‘doc fix,’ passed by House, shifts some costs to seniors

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.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2 on Thursday, a bill that would prevent an automatic cut of 21 percent in Medicare payments to physicians and would require seniors to pay more in the form of higher copayments and premiums. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 also would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years through 2017.

The vote was hailed as a step forward for physicians because it eliminates the formula Congress has used for many years to increase payments to physicians. That formula, called the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was renegotiated annually and usually at the last minute. It’s been replaced with an annual payment increase of 0.5 percent. The vote was 392 to 37, including 212 Republicans and 180 Democrats voting in favor, according to Govtrack.us.

The strong support from both Republicans and Democrats puts pressure on the U.S. Senate to approve the bill, before Congress adjourns on Friday, Paul Demko wrote in Modern Healthcare. Continue reading

Today’s aging boomers may be less healthy elders than expected, study says

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 by Mike Licht via Flickr

Image: Mike Licht via Flickr

New research refutes the common assumption that baby boomers are healthier than previous generations and will remain so into old age. Better education, higher income and lower smoking rates are offset by the negative impact of increasing body mass index and obesity-related health problems, according to a study in the current issue of the health policy journal Milbank Quarterly.

A longitudinal cohort study with 8,570 participants looked at the trajectory of self-rated health among four generations of Canadians: World War II-era (born between 1935 and 1944), older baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1954), younger baby boomers (born between 1955 and 1964), and Generation X (born between 1965 and 1974). In Canada, almost one-third of the population is between the ages of 46 and 65, according to the 2011 Canadian census. Continue reading

Health Journalism 2015 agenda covers gamut of health care

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

<span class="credit">Pia Christensen/AHCJ</span>AHCJ President Karl Stark, the assistant managing editor, business, health and science at <em>The Philadelphia Inquirer</em>, gives tips on covering hospital finance at Health Journalism 2014.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAHCJ President Karl Stark, the assistant managing editor, business, health and science at The Philadelphia Inquirer, gives tips on covering hospital finance at Health Journalism 2014.

We have posted descriptions of nearly all of the panels planned for Health Journalism 2015 and it’s an agenda packed with timely and useful sessions for anyone covering health.

Field trips on Thursday will feature trips to Stanford University, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford Health Care, Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory, the Division of Clinical Anatomy at Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System to learn about simulation training, pediatric heart care, hospital disaster preparation, veterans’ rehabilitation, early detection of cancer and much more. Continue reading

Link between air quality, residents’ lung health seen in European nursing homes

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.

Isabella Annesi-Maesano

Isabella Annesi-Maesano

Like the United States, most European nations face an increasingly aging population, with more elderly living in some type of long-term care facility or nursing home. A new study in the March 12 online issue of the European Respiratory Journal indicates that indoor air quality in these nursing homes has a serious effect on the lung health of elderly residents.

The research describes the negative effects of poor air quality in nursing homes across several countries. U.S. journalists may want to use this study as background to investigate similar issues at nursing homes in their communities.

Investigators from the EU-funded Geriatric study in Europe on health effects of air quality in nursing homes (GERIE) collected data on five indoor air pollutants: particulate matter known as PM10 (large particles) and PM0.1 (ultra-fine particles), formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. These pollutants come from a range of sources including heaters, building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems. They studied levels of the pollutants at 50 nursing homes in seven countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Continue reading

The aging Latino population faces unique challenges

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"  Daniel C via Flickr

Photo: Daniel C via Flickr

All family caregivers face struggle to provide appropriate care to their loved ones, while balancing work, other family obligations and managing stress. Latino caregivers must also overcome other barriers, including language, cultural expectations within the Hispanic community, to jobs that may not provide necessary flexibility.

According to the National Hispanic Council on Aging, one-third of Hispanic households report having at least one family caregiver (36 percent). They estimate there are at least 8.1 million Hispanic family caregivers in the U.S. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of these caregivers are female, with an average age of 42. They provide more intensive, higher-burden caregiving, help with more activities of daily living, and more frequently live with their loved one than do their non-Hispanic, White counterparts. Yet, half (50 percent) of the caregivers rate their experiences as less stressful than do white caregivers.

Chronic diseases like diabetes affect twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanics, especially Hispanic elders. However studies show minority caregivers tend to use substantially fewer formal support services than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Focus groups conducted with racially and ethnically diverse caregivers found that “familism, a primary value of Latino cultures, is often cited as a motivating factor for providing care, including the expectation that extended family will assist with the care of older relatives.” Continue reading

Bipartisan, bicameral caucus launched to put caregiving in spotlight

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.

Who says Congress can’t cooperate?

Two Republicans and two Democrats yesterday announced the formation of the bipartisan, bicameral Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus to support family caregivers.

U.S. senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. representatives Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) are leading the effort to bring greater attention to family caregiving and work on a bipartisan basis to find solutions to some of its major challenges. Continue reading

Talking about end of life and palliative care: Part two of a conversation with Nancy Berlinger

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: James Hancox via Flickr

Photo: James Hancox via Flickr

Nancy Berlinger, Ph.D., is a research scholar at The Hastings Center and co-author of a retrospective article on palliative and end-of-life care that was published in the Feb. 12 New England Journal of Medicine.

In part one of our conversation, Berlinger focused on the need to broaden the discussion among and improve training of clinicians on talking to patients about end of life issues. In part two, she discusses foreseeable scenarios, societal perspectives and how to improve media coverage of this complex topic. Continue reading

How the discussion on dying has changed over 40 years: A conversation with Nancy Berlinger

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.

If you want a refresher on how far society has come on dealing with end-of-life care issues — and what issues are still to be resolved — then this retrospective article in the Feb 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine from experts at The Hastings Center is a great place to begin. It reviews the history of the end-of-life care movement in the U.S., takes a look at the integration of palliative care into health care delivery, discusses the still controversial “death with dignity” laws and ethical issues like removal of feeding and hydration tubes.

I recently spoke with co-author Nancy Berlinger, Ph.D., a research scholar at Hastings, about how the conversation on death and dying has changed over four decades. Continue reading

SuperAger brains distinctly different than those of peers

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.

Why do the brains of some older adults look very different than those of their peers? Scientists at Northwestern University say the answer may explain why these elders don’t suffer the same cognitive decline that affects other seniors.

Image by  Allan Ajifot via flickr.

Image by Allan Ajifot via flickr.

These so-called “SuperAgers,” all age 80 and older, have memories as sharp as those of healthy people 30 years younger, according to a small study by researchers from the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. This is the first study to quantify brain differences of SuperAgers and normal older people.

When compared with people of similar ages, the “brain signature” of SuperAgers have a thicker region of the cortex; significantly fewer tangles — a primary marker of Alzheimer’s disease – and a substantial supply of von Economo neurons, which are linked to higher social intelligence.

Continue reading

Program uses pharmacists to help manage complex health needs

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: Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

Photo: Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

As the Department of Health and Human Services continues its shift towards an outcomes-based payment model, one small health system is working with its pharmacists to create an innovative disease management initiative to minimize hospital readmissions and improve health status for its most complex – and costly – patients.

The Comprehensive Health Management program developed by Martin Health System in Stuart, Fla., establishes a progressive role for pharmacists to work directly with older, chronically ill patients. Integrating these neighborhood-based professionals into the system’s primary care practices improves management of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart and lung disease, according to David Harlow, Pharm.D., assistant vice president for professional services, clinical imaging, clinical laboratory, clinical pharmacy and disease management at Martin. Continue reading